Could the next Messi or Beckham be U.S. born and raised? A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found close to 3 million children ages 7-17 are playing soccer. And just like the rest of the country, the Treasure Valley has embraced the beautiful game.
"With the exposure globally it's definitely caught on a lot more here especially in the last 4 or 5 years," Said Carlos Correa of the Idaho Rush Soccer Club.
But with more players on the pitch, more are getting injured. In the study conducted by Nationwide's Children Hospital, soccer injuries jumped 77% between 1990 and 2014. The study found the most common injuries are strains and sprains, but head injurers saw a 1600% increase. Doctors at St. Luke's say it's not just that kids are playing soccer, but head injuries and concussions, in particular, are being more accurately reported.
"People are kind of more educated on it," explained Dr. Christopher Lawler who practices sports medicine at St. Luke's. "Coaches, parents, players, and so a lot of symptoms that were missed are recognized more often."
At Idaho Rush Soccer club, player safety is one of their core values. Coaches are required to have protocols to deal with everything from bloody noses to broken bones. And across the state, if a player sustains a head injury they are benched from both club games and training until they are cleaned from a doctor. But Idaho is also ahead of the curve when it comes to preventing concussion. Starting this fall, players under 12 can't head the ball in games. On the national level, it's under 11. Coaches say these standards keep their players safe.
"We do need to make sure we are very very careful and put the player's safety first," said Correa
While more injuries on the soccer field are being reported, doctors say it shouldn't discourage today’s youth from scoring goals. Saying even players can recover from concussions.
"When treated appropriately they are like other injurers and we can get athletes to recover," explained Dr. Lawler.