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3 Concordia exercise science grads are behind CF Montreal’s peak performance

Athletic therapists Karam Al-Hamdani, Foti Evangelista and Sheehan McBride help major league soccer players thrive on the field
December 1, 2022
By JP Karwacki, BA 11

Man playing soccer game on field Photo by Emilio Garcia on Unsplash

Having reached the semifinals of the Major Soccer League’s Eastern Conference in October, and now playing a prominent part on Team Canada’s squad at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, CF Montreal — formerly Montreal Impact — is stronger than it’s ever been.

A strong team, however, requires even stronger support. More than two dozen members make up CF Montreal’s technical team, with 15 specialists in sports medicine and rehabilitation among them. Meet three graduates of Concordia’s Exercise Science program working daily to ensure players are in top shape — on and off the field.

Karam Al-Hamdani has dark hair and a beard, and wears a black soccer jersey

Karam Al-Hamdani, BSc 08, head athletic therapist

Originally from Abu Dhabi, Karam Al-Hamdani arrived in Montreal at age 15, following the Gulf War. An avid sportsman, he has known rehab routines and physical therapists throughout his life, having dislocated a shoulder 15 times.

Now head athletic therapist for CF Montreal, Al-Hamdani says, “It’s about having the ability to work with athletes from A to Z. I love being able to actively participate in our athletes’ rehab and return-to-play programs. Where else can you say you passed the ball around with CF Montreal’s Didier Drogba or Victor Wanyama in a workday?”

It’s what happens behind the scenes that has always interested Al-Hamdani​ most. When an injury occurs, he springs into action, deciphering the footage of the play to create an effective care plan.

Crediting the combination of his Concordia exercise science studies and pure tenacity for his career success, Al-Hamdani first worked as a strength and conditioning coach and a head trainer before joining CF Montreal as part of a multidisciplinary sports medicine department.

Crediting past professors like athletic therapy laboratory instructor David Jones and athletic trainer Jean-Baptiste Laporte, BSc 06, alongside grads like Dave Campbell, BSc 78, and former Montreal Canadiens assistant athletic therapist Vincent Roof-Racine, BSc 08, for shaping who he is today, Al-Hamdani is now in the thick of the industry himself, working collaboratively with physicians, athletic therapists, physical therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists and interns.

“My mission is to advocate and ensure that the best medical practices are implemented to put our athletes in the best position to succeed,” he says.

Sheehan McBride has short, light hair and is wearing a black soccer jersey

Sheehan McBride, BSc 13, assistant athletic therapist

Sheehan McBride played football and soccer when he was younger. Yet his experience with rehabilitation and physical therapy began when he experienced a debilitating bacterial infection in his hip as a child, and when his mother broke her ankle.

“It was frustrating, but there was also some motivation to understand more, to do as much as I could for myself as well as others along the way,” McBride says.

He learned more about athletic therapy after meeting athletic therapists at a local gym and talking to them about emergency care. He enrolled in Concordia’s Exercise Science program.

“I was shocked at the small size of classes at Concordia, but I loved it. The teachers and professors were so approachable,” he recalls. “That and the quality of instruction made all the difference.”

McBride was fortunate to start working with CF Montreal mere months after graduation, thanks to an athletic therapy clinical internship with the CF Montreal Academy. “It was pivotal in my being hired by the team at the time,” he says.

While he may not have set out with the goal of working in professional sports, Sheehan e is now happily involved in the team’s rehabilitation. Working alongside physical therapists, he follows athletes from the acute stages of their injuries to the end stages of rehab. He also helps out on the field. Through his nine years with the team, he watched it grow and enjoyed working one-on-one with athletes through short-term injuries and long-term struggles.

“There are all kinds of things that can happen in pro sports — it’s exciting,” he says. “Above all, it’s how you and the team grow from it.”

Foti Evangelista has is wearing a black soccer jersey and has a short dark beard and bald head

Foti Evangelista, BSc 17, assistant athletic therapist

Laval, Quebec-born Foti Evangelista found a way to merge his two passions — sports and health care — as an assistant athletic therapist for CF Montreal.

It’s his formative experiences in a variety of competitive sports team settings in the United States and Canada that set him on his path in rehabilitative care. After graduating from Concordia’s Exercise Sciences program, he completed a master’s degree in athletic training at the University of Toledo before landing his position with the CF Montreal Academy, later transitioning to CF Montreal’s First Team.

“The Exercise Science program did a great job at giving us the tools for therapy and success in this realm of health care. They have a lot of great courses, including more advanced study of the spine and pelvis. That really gives therapists like me a leg-up in our field,” Evangelista says.

Part of the team responsible for CF Montreal players’ health and well-being, Evangelista ensures players are fit and at their prime both for matches and everyday training. Though most of the work he does is in the shadows, as an athletic therapist, he’s among the few health-care professionals who work intensively with athletes from the time of their injury until they are back in top shape.

A proud Montrealer, Evangelista says he wants nothing more than to see his team succeed on the greater North American sports landscape.

“I love having the opportunity to work at the highest level of soccer in my hometown. You couldn’t really ask for anything else — to put Montreal on the map."


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