In January 2022, goalkeeper Matisse Hébert experienced one of the worst nightmares a high-profile player can experience.
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“During a practice session, my leg got stuck in the ground and my season had just peaked. My left knee meniscus was torn. It was like everything I loved was taken away from me.”
Matisse was 17 and entering his sixth year at CF Montreal Academy. As adulthood dawned, the opportunity to make the leap to the pros only grew. In an instant, the dream he had harbored for so long seemed gone.
A little over a year later, Matisse attended the first part of Impact’s fire training camp and reconnected with his Academy teammates. This would not have been possible without two things: the good mentoring he received at CHU Sainte-Justine and his positive attitude.
To encourage these two elements, Matisse decided to look back on the most difficult year of his young life.
“It’s important to me to share my story. I want to send the message to the youngest that a serious injury does not mean the end of a dream.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY SÉBASTIEN HÉBERT
The athlete met the orthopedist Marie-Lyne Nault some time after his serious injury. She offered him two options, either remove his meniscus or reattach it. The first option would have allowed him a quicker return to football, while the second would have ensured him a better quality of life for the many years after his football career. Matisse chose the second way.
“It was such a big tear that it wasn’t 100% sure the surgery would bring any positive results,” he recalled.
During a pre-surgery meeting, Dr. Nault said the outcome of the procedure would depend on the condition of her knee and that she would only find out for sure on the operating table.
“I did visualizations every night before bed,” Matisse said. I imagined that everything would be in the right place in my knee to make the doctor’s job easier. In the end, that’s exactly what happened.”
PHOTO SUPPLIED BY MARC-ANDRÉ DONATO
Scientifically, Matisse’s visualization probably didn’t change anything. However, it allowed the young man to cultivate positivity.
“Matisse has incredible resilience,” said Dr. Nault.
“Physically, he did it perfectly. It really is an example. Psychologically, he showed great maturity. He was always positive and motivated when he came to see me.
When asked about his tendency to see the glass half full, Matisse does not hide the fact that he has also experienced difficult times.
“It allowed me to test my mental strength. It was a tough test, but I’m proud that I stayed positive.
“It was sometimes mentally exhausting. However, I am fortunate to have put my parents through this ordeal. They stayed positive, which helped me do the same.”
In addition to his parents, the goalkeeper could count on the support of the academy’s mental coach and Sainte-Justine’s staff.
Matisse went under the knife on March 23, 2022, eventually returning to the field in November of that year. Between these two moments there was a lot of physiotherapy and many hours in one of the armchairs of the family home in Saint-Jérôme.
“For the first few weeks, I sat in the same chair for 16 hours and then fell asleep in my bed.”
He finally left his seat eight weeks later after taking his first steps with the help of his physiotherapist.
“The first time I ran, it was weird. I was in Sainte Justine. I was scared but she came back. It was an incredible feeling.
“It took me three months to sit in that chair again,” he adds, laughing.
“Matisse is a good example for all my other patients because his story shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dr. Nault.