By now, football’s concussion crisis is well known: every year brings headlines of our Hall of Fame heroes behaving erratically and dying young. But did you know that several kid players across the continent drop dead every year before a single ball is snapped — just from extreme conditioning drills directed by all-powerful coaches? Without Helmets or Shoulder Pads takes the conversation about football and public health to a new level with investigations of the sport’s underreported worst tragedies and their cover-ups, at major universities, obscure junior colleges, and high schools. These add up to a kind of quiet pandemic — a socially induced one enabled by our thirst for spectacle and by a skewed vision of masculinity.
Here are the shocking stories of young men who get struck down by exertional heatstroke and other causes sometimes not even acknowledged (such as the sickle cell trait syndrome that afflicts many African Americans). When the worst happens, the football world simply buries the evidence, pays off victims’ families, and moves on.
No matter how much we enjoy America’s most popular sport at elite levels, this book makes the case that it belongs out of our public schools and off our public fields.
Available October 3, 2023. PRE-ORDER NOW!
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Irvin Muchnick “produces magnificent investigative journalism,” wrote the late dean of sportswriters, Frank Deford. Muchnick’s writings have inspired congressional investigations of deaths in the pro wrestling industry and government investigations — in the U.S., Ireland, Brazil, and Venezuela — of sexual abuse by youth swimming coaches. He lives in Berkeley, California.
Published: October 2023
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.
“Football’s massive popularity is undeniable, as are the many reasons players and fans are drawn to the game. But what is also undeniable is the game’s brutality and the troubling aspects of football culture at all levels. To whatever extent the reader shares Irv Muchnick’s perspective and conclusions, the evidence and arguments he presents deserve thoughtful attention.” — Bob Costas
“Muchnick’s jeremiad digs deeper than ever into the greed and hypocrisy of high school and college football, and the trail of broken bodies left in their wake. His information on the perils of conditioning is essential reading and might save your kid’s life.” — Robert Lipsyte, former New York Times sports columnist and author of many books, including young adult novels and SportsWorld