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Local News

Elmhurst doctor reports from U.S. Soccer camp at World Cup Brazil

Sports medicine physician and Elmhurst resident Nathaniel Jones attends an event for fans during his trip to the World Cup in Brazil with the U.S. men's soccer team. (Photo provided)
Sports medicine physician and Elmhurst resident Nathaniel Jones attends an event for fans during his trip to the World Cup in Brazil with the U.S. men's soccer team. (Photo provided)

ELMHURST – For life-long soccer fan Nathaniel Jones, traveling around Brazil with the U.S. men's soccer team during the World Cup is more than exciting.

“I grew up in Brazil, so soccer is everything,” said Jones, who's mother is Brazilian.

Jones, an Elmhurst resident and sports medicine physician at Loyola University Medical Center, traveled with the team to Brazil on June 13 to provide medial care for more than 150 friends, family members and staff members associated with the team.

Jones, who is fluent in Portuguese, is also the back-up team physician. After serving as the team physician for the U.S. men's under-20 soccer team in 2012, Jones got the opportunity to join the national team's entourage for the World Cup.

“I know some of the concerns people had coming down here were we were having protests before the World Cup," Jones said.

He hasn't seen any so far, though. Jones also said that while some media coverage has pointed out issues with the stadiums, he's only seen some lingering construction going on outside.

“The stadium itself, I thought it was great," Jones said after attending the first U.S. match June 16 in Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil.

Jones, who grew up in Recife, Brazil where the U.S. will play Germany on Thursday, chose to study sports medicine because of his love of soccer.

After moving to the U.S. when he was in eighth grade, Jones continued to play soccer through high school and for fun in college, but after two surgeries on his anterior cruciate ligament, he was forced to cut his career on the field short.

“I like to be on the sideline watching the games," Jones said.

Jones said his love for soccer and experience as an athlete helps him get players back in the game as soon as possible.

"It really involves the art of medicine," said Jones, explaining that balancing an athlete's desire to get back in the game and ensuring he's ready is one of the most challenging parts of his job.

While in Brazil, though, he's charged with the care of everyone else who's traveled to the World Cup with the team. So far, he said everyone's been pretty healthy, but couldn't comment on any of the injuries players like Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore suffered during the U.S. vs. Ghana match.

“I think the biggest concern is we’re going to Manaus next, which is in the Amazon," Jones said Thursday.

Prior to the trip, the group received vaccines, including ones for yellow fever and malaria. Arena Amazona in Manaus, where the U.S. played Portugal on Sunday, is in an area at high risk for malaria infection.

Threat of illness hasn't kept the crowds away, though. Jones said one of the most interesting parts of the trip has been seeing all the tourists who have traveled to Brazil to cheer on their team.

“Besides Brazilians, Americans were the second largest group there,” Jones said about the match the U.S. won against Ghana.

Even though, he grew up in Brazil, Jones said he's cheering for the U.S., and is impressed with the support he's heard about in the Chicago area.

“It just proves that soccer is becoming more mainstream," Jones said.

Jones said his three children, Jonah, 7, Micah, 5, and Tessa, 2, were too young to make the busy trip, so they stayed home in Elmhurst with his wife, Rebecca. His two sons are already following in their father's footsteps, though. They both play for Elmhurst AYSO teams.

“I think this World Cup's going to be a good thing for soccer in the U.S., especially if we continue to do well," Jones said.

– – – –

Next U.S. match

Who: U.S. vs. Germany

When: 11 a.m. Thursday

Where: Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil

TV: ESPN and Univision

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