Go Ask Daddy About Head Injuries, Soccer Stars, and the Storm That Canceled Everything in Charlotte


It’s not good when a first-round draft pick in the NFL is known for getting more concussions than championship rings.

GAD GRAPHICThat was quarterback David Carr’s reality. The Houston Texans chose Carr, a star at Fresno State, first overall in the 2002 draft. In five brutal seasons behind a makeshift expansion team offensive line, Carr was sacked 249 times. He signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2007.

I had a chance to talk to him about his concussions when I worked for the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record and Associated Press.

Carr suffered at least three concussions with Houston, and at least one with Carolina. I asked him about the injuries once, and he categorized each hit as distinct from the others. Once, in Tennessee, he said, I took a hit, and sat up and looked around the stadium.

I wasn’t sure which stadium we were in, he said, but I knew it wasn’t ours.

Carr went on to play four more seasons, and was always a favorite player of mine. I’ve spoken out about the NFL’s treatment of head trauma, but I don’t really have a solution. Especially when the epidemic hits close to home, or even closer, as it turns out …

yes grace

1. When did I get a concussion?

You were just 8, Camdyn. Wow, it’s hard to believe.

Camdyn helped fill in on a U9 girls team I coached with Charlotte United. Mostly, the parents didn’t mind her playing and not paying, because mostly she played goalkeeper, which mean their daughters didn’t have to.

It was cool, though, for the experience, and the girls on the team loved her.

We were playing a inter-club match without referees. Things got kind of chippy. An opposing player shoved Camdyn – not anything particularly dirty. On Camdyn’s way down, though, she caught a teammate’s knee to the side of the head.

Parents said Camdyn was out cold before she hit the ground.

I missed the whole thing. Camdyn got up, and stumbled to me on the sideline. I feel dizzy, she said, with this terrified look on on her face. I lowered her to the ground, and several minutes later, they stopped the game.

Luckily there was a doctor in the house.

I held together coolly as an ambulance arrived and medics strapped Camdyn to a gurney. Every time she tried to sit up, she got dizzy, and she couldn’t see out of one eye. She was diagnosed with a concussion in the ER, and was out of soccer for a week.

One of her teammates asked her mom to please follow the ambulance to make sure Camdyn was okay. I’ll always remember that!

nfl tv
Aaron Rodgers probably doesn’t play with bling.     photo credit: Aaron Rodgers via photopin (license)

2. Do NFL players wear jewelry?

They do ever. This perplexes me, as a man who can’t even type this post on a Lenovo without taking off his watch and sometimes even his socks.

Meanwhile, a mean old ref will make a 7-year-old girl sit out if she wears earrings on the soccer field, or has the wristband from an amusement park on her wrist. The NFL plays gestapo on everything from sock color to brand names on helmet shields.

Heck, they even tried to keep Steelers receiver Antonio Brown from returning to the field until he changed his cleats. His offending kicks? A tribute to boxer Muhammad Ali. He’d have been better off wearing a gold medallion of the champ’s mug.

Oh, and then this happened in Denver last season.

3. Does Mallory Weber play for the USWNT?

She doesn’t, but she’s got a pretty good soccer life nonetheless.

Mallory starred collegiately at Penn State, and now plays for Portland Thorns FC. I think she ought to be on the U.S. Women’s national team, but that’s pretty stiff competition. (I think Madison should be there, too.)

A captain at Penn State, Mallory also played on the CONCACAF U20 team, and made the assist on the winning goal against Duke in the College Cup final in 2015. These tweets, though, might tell you why I think she’s pretty awesome.

And especially …

milk cows
photo credit: Butterworks Farm with Jack Lazor & Fred Kirschenmann_3474 via photopin (license)

4. Is there such a thing as wild cows?

Speaking of In and Out Burgers …

According to the Wild Cattle Conservation, most wild cow species are listed in the IUCN Red Data Book, which lists all threatened species. The mighty Auroch, which I wrote about on Go Ask Daddy before, was twice as big as a modern-day bull.

But he went extinct in 1627, my freshman year in college. (Beat you to it, kids.)

Cows as we know them have never been wild. They’ve always been domesticated, for meat or milk. Bison, water buffalo, and yaks run wild in some capacity, taking with them the spirit of the Auroch and his little cousins, the domesticated cow, with them.

So, unless vegans set all the domesticated cows free … wow, would that be a wild scene.

5. When will have another hurricane in Charlotte?

A storm still at hurricane strength 177 miles (as the crow – or perhaps pelican? – flies) inland from where it made landfall? That’s about as rare as a herd of feral Holsteins roaming the mean streets of East Charlotte.

Hugo, a category 4 storm with winds of 135 mph when it hit Charleston, S.C., stayed a hurricane all the way to the N.C. foothills. It passed through Charlotte as a category 2, with sustained winds of 96-110 mph.

We actually had a tropical storm in the mountains. You just don’t expect a storm to pack that kind of punch that far inland! It was like the time your dad finished second in a hamburger eating contest – even though he’d just had lunch. #anomaly

In 1935, an unnamed storm struck within 150 miles of Charlotte with max winds of 184 mph. Homefacts.com rates Charlotte a very low risk for hurricanes. I was in high school then, and remember waking up to wind and rain pounding my windows.

I looked for my cat, Cybill, who sat in the middle of the room licking her paws. She probably knew it was coming. The power went out, and we listened for updates on WBT radio. It Takes Two by Marvin Gaye and Kim Winston played between updates.

I remember wondering why we were listening to peppy 60s music when no one knew what was outside our walls! (I realized the irony of Hugo’s category 2 status much later). I went out in the storm, just to see how it felt.

Everything had a greenish hue, and I could smell salt water in the air. It was impossible to tell which direction the wind came from. It was all around. I heard later that seabirds got caught in the winds and wound up in Charlotte.

Quickly as it struck, Hugo was gone. I thought it was the eye of the storm, but it was the end of it, for us. We walked through the neighborhood to see a haphazard pattern of heavily damaged homes and others untouched.

We missed two weeks of school, with power lines down everywhere and structural damage. We lost our spring break that year, and even had a feeble protest the day before the break was supposed to start! Everything seemed to get canceled for months after.

(Years later, my sister and I joked that anything postponed was due to Hurricane Hugo, because we’d heard it so much.)

It’s not likely another storm will come this way. It was scary and costly, but kind of cool to live through, you know? Easy for me to say, when we had one small tree downed in our yard to show for it.

Here’s hoping the likelihood of Mallory Weber joining you on the USWNT is far greater than another hurricane here – and that Camdyn getting another concussion is far lower!

hiassen quote hurricanes


  1. Beth says:

    How scary about Camdyn’s concussion and good for you keeping it together. I don’t know I could have been so level headed, but then again, we find superhuman strength through parenthood don’t we? You just show up and do it. I’m always amazed at that anyway.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It was surreal, Beth. I think you’d have found that strength in the same situation. It’s what we do. It would be different if this weren’t her only serious injury, either!

  2. I was the same age as Camdyn when she had her concussion when Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina, and although we lived far enough away from the coast, I remember being worried — watching that radar for the days before, waiting for the rain to come, worrying that somehow it might engulf us, too. We huddled around the TV when it landed, unable to look away.

    I remember watching in awe that nature could do something so devastating to itself: the power of that storm was unmatched. Months later, when we finally traveled back to Charleston, the damage was so devastating. This town we once loved was simply ripped to shreds.

    Yet beneath the rubble the town still stood, strong in all its glory and history, and the people of that city came together and stood strong with it — just like Camdyn’s team did when they stopped the game in the wake of her little hurt head, just like a team does even in spite of the fact that some of its players may wear non-sports-appropriate jewelry, and just like a herd of domesticated cows does when they stand in solidarity in a field, haunch to haunch and hoof to hoof, enjoying their lunch together until they become lunch themselves.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That had to have been scary, Corey. I remember feeling so uneasy about a city I loved being in the path.

      Yes, that is nature turning on itself, isn’t it? It feels like with fire and flood and other disasters, it’s so much bigger than humankind, it’s a global cleansing that we’re mere ants in comparison.

      Charleston has endured so much historically, from fire and flood, war and storm. And it always rises.

      I can remember seeing Camdyn’s little cleats still on her feet as they lifted her into the ambulance. She held together really well, too, until she was in the ambulance, and I could see her start to cry. Whew.

  3. Kim Airhart says:

    I have been known to be VERY calm and COOL in times of crisis but I am not sure what I would have done in your situation with Camdyn. How scary!!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I bet you would have kept it together, Kim. When you have to, you have to!

  4. Well, I want to be there when the cows are set free. It reminds me of Bless the Beasts and Children. Yeah, I am older than dirt. *wink*
    I am glad Camdyn is okay. That is scary. What they have learned about head injuries is frightening.
    I am sure that Rodgers does play with bling. I am a Packer fan! *wink*

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Maybe you can unlock the gate, Annie. Or maybe the children will do it! We’re not old, we’re just well-seasoned.

      Camdyn is a tough nut. It’s a chance you take when you play sports. What’s even more frightening is what they don’t know.

      I almost forgot about Aaron’s discount double check belt! (Is it football season yet?)

  5. SickChristine says:

    Coming from south Florida, I’ve seen way too many hurricanes. If I get hit up here I’m leaving and moving to Alaska.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      They’re pissy and unpredictable aren’t they, Christine? Polar bears, though.

      1. SickChristine says:

        And Sarah Palin. Geesh. Maybe a hurricane is safer.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        We can take our chances!

      3. SickChristine says:

        And I’m a seasoned hurricane veteran. I can do it!

      4. Eli Pacheco says:

        There should be a badge for that – or at least a “free hurricane – the drink” card.

  6. Coco says:

    Concussions in professional players are bad enough, but concussions in youth sports are scary! Glad your daughter is OK.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’ve seen just two in youth sports, and Camdyn’s was by far the most severe, Coco. Thank you!

  7. Concussions are so scary. I can remember rough-housing when I was a kid and my friends bumping their heads and “blacking out” all the time and it was nothing back then. Another scary thing – hurricanes. Isabel was a bad one for my area. The entire town I lived in was without electricity for over four days and it was complete chaos!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      There’s much we don’t know about concussions, Lecy. I saw stars a few times when I played football, but we kept going.

      Concussions and hurricanes are a helluva one-two punch. The images that come out of hurricane aftermath are incredible – I remember browsing through the Associated Press wire when I worked in newspapers, and you can’t make up that sort of destruction.

  8. 15andmeowing says:

    That must have been very scary to have your child get a concussion. Glad she was OK and only needed a week off from playing. Have a nice weekend! I will be reading But Did You Die? so I can do a review on Monday 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      We know it’s part of the game, and you hate for anyone to get hurt, but being your kid … I’ve had others break arms during a game, and one in high school suffered a serious knee injury during a game.

      Send me a link to your review! Hope you like it … there’s funny stuff in there.

  9. ksbeth says:

    and i think your daughter’s concussion was even scarier than the hurricane. glad everyone came though it okay.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Right? The hurricane can be cleaned up easier than the concussion.

  10. mimi says:

    This vegan would never want to set all of those animals free. As with people who dump their cats or dogs to fend for themselves, it would end in disaster. (People who do that are a pet peeve of mine, by the way.)

    No hurricanes, please! For any of us. My wish is that we could steer them straight up into the North Atlantic to break up without causing any damage. If they have to exist (and they do because of what weather is like here on our planet), that would be the best outcome.

    Glad your daughter recovered from her concussion and i pray for no more repeats!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Mass freedom of domesticated animals would be a mess, wouldn’t it, Meems? I wish people wouldn’t abandon pets either.

      I know hurricanes are scary, but I’d hate to mess with the balance of nature more than we already do, you know? They have a function when they make landfall.

      These girls play all out – I often worry more about the girls they go up against!

  11. stomperdad says:

    I feel fairly safe with the boys playing baseball. The risk of concussions is as low as a collegate athlete’s expected GPA. I remember hurricane Gloria coming through Maryland sometime in the late 80’s (I was in 6th grade). The eye passed over us. I remember riding my bike through the nearly flooded streets. Did you see Bryce Harper’s shoes in the All Star game to pay tribute to Jose Fernandez? There were no gestapo umps to make him change them.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      All sports have perils, but baseball has less of the bodily contact that leads to these kinds of concussions. There’s a future GAD question about what happens when a college wants you to play for them, but your grades aren’t good enough.

      (I’m going to have fun with that one. Look out, Tar Heels.)

      I once drove a brilliant route to avoid passing through Hurricane Georges. Turns out, I wound up right in his path the entire time. Thanks, Georges.

      I didn’t see Bryce’s shoes, but I love that – and that Major League Baseball didn’t bust him for it. He’s a hothead, but man, what talent that kid has.

      Did I tell you the story with Hayden and Jose Fernandez?

      1. stomperdad says:

        Story with Hayden and Jose? I haven’t heard that one. Do tell.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        We got to see Jose pitch when he was in Class A. It was a rainy day and I just taught Hayden to score a baseball game. He was something special, and dropped an F-bomb in front of Hayden moments before she asked for an autograph (to a teammate), but it was a pretty awesome day of baseball.

      3. stomperdad says:

        A day to remember for sure. Did she get his autograph?

      4. Eli Pacheco says:

        She did. We got to see him pitch up close, from the front row. he was something special. And he signed her ball, which got a little wet, but remains a prized possession.

      5. stomperdad says:

        My brother was hit in the head by foul ball at an O’s game (I was using our ball glove to hold my peanuts). A fan behind us got the ball. Call Sr. was coaching 3rd and saw what happened and gave my brother a game ball. Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to it. It wasn’t signed, though.

      6. Eli Pacheco says:

        I love the Ripkens – even Billy, with his naughty-word baseball bat.

      7. stomperdad says:

        I never did my hands on that card. Saw it though!

      8. Eli Pacheco says:

        I’ve got something to send you. I’ll email you to get your address.

  12. Wow, that concussion … scary stuff. 8 feels so young still – she is such a tough girl; very brave not to break down right then. Tough dad, too.
    Hmm, I never thought about wild cows… what a sight that would be!!!! Good info – thanks.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It’s part of the game, though, and I’m grateful for seasons that go by without incident, Katherine. She is tough – I’m tough (because of them!) too.

      Wild cows could make for some cool sports team mascots, too. Maybe for my fantasy football team this year.

  13. 1. I have only had one concussion that I know of. When I was in the 10th grade, I was in band 🚶. I was in the flag corps 🎌 but I was also learning how to twirl a rifle. I was actually good enough to be an alternate but I never performed on the field with one. My director 💁 wanted to keep me in the flags🎌.. Anyway, I was practicing one day and spinning away 😎 when someone said my name. I turned my head just barely and the darn thing hit me in the forehead and knocked me out! 💤 Seriously, like hit the pavement. I was only out for a few seconds but I remember that dizzy💫 feeling and the nausea. 😷
    2. I have always wondered about players with jewelry💍 on. How do they not get into trouble or get hurt? That makes no sense at all. 🏈
    3. Have no clue who Mallory Weber is ⁉ I assume she plays soccer⚽? I don’t follow any kind of futball ⚽ so I have no idea about these things… 😎
    4. It is a good thing I do not own cows 🐮 because I would never eat another burger 🍔 again. They would all have names and be my pets! Of course if my only choice was In and Out, I would give them up anyway! 😝
    5. Had friends who lived through Hugo 🌀. He was based at Ft Sumter.✈ After the storm ⛅ all the trees 🌴on the base looked like someone had taken a buzz saw up one side of them. We were there just a few months after it hit and could still see a lot of damage. 💰🚧

    Did you know July 17 was World Emoji Day?? http://worldemojiday.com/ Gotta love it!!! My new Favorite holiday!!😎 😎 😎😎😎

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Flag corps is for real, Courtney. I remember the flag girls as dreamy yet tough.

      I can’t even type with a watch on, let alone play football with earrings in!

      Mallory Weber is one of many rising stars for the women’s national team. Maybe my girls will make it there, too.

      Hurricane damage knows no restriction of physics. Hugo mashed one house and left the next unscathed.

      Did you know I’ve used only two emojis in my whole life?

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