Jonathon Hefney’s injury photo another stark reminder of the risks players face

Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber and Montreal Alouette defensive back Jonathon Hefney posted a photo of the aftermath of his most recent surgery, providing yet another stark reminder of what CFL players go through – often without support from the teams or the league.

In October of 2015, Hefney was carted off the field after a collision with the Ottawa Redblacks Patrick Lavoie. Hefney suffered three fractured vertebrae and nerve damage that left him with limited use of his arm. According to Hefney, he suffered an injury to the brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves that sends signals to your shoulder, arm and hand. Minor brachial plexus injuries are common in football and are known as stingers or burners while more severe cases can lead to paralysis and loss of function which is what happened to Hefney.

The Montreal Alouettes, for whom Hefney played when he was hurt, covered the cost of Hefney’s first surgery via insurance but their obligations ended a year after the injury. Hefney used a GoFundMe campaign to pay for a second procedure and then had this one, which took place on June 22.

The photo caught the attention of a few players, including veteran Canadian defensive back Matt Black.

The CFL players’ association has said it wants to make extended medical benefits for injured players an issue in the next CBA negotiations and Hefney continues to be the prime example as to why the union needs to make sure it remains a priority.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1551 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

23 Comments on Jonathon Hefney’s injury photo another stark reminder of the risks players face

  1. Whoa. He’s starting look like sackboy from Little Big Planet.

  2. Evil Empire // July 13, 2018 at 4:49 pm //

    The CFLPA seems to be more concerned with protecting the likes of Hebert from getting deserved suspensions than really looking after the players. It’s always boggled my mind. Best of luck to Hefney.

  3. if I was a player, I would lobby the union to fight hard for this. Very tragic situation.

  4. uh ya- Evil Empire- Players’ Union can’t quit defending players on disciplinary measures used by league. Unrelated to this article, buddy

    • Evil makes a valid point; what if one of Hebert’s dirty hits paralyzes a player for life? What would the Unions position be in such a case; would the Inion still protect Herbert? When will Herbert learn that his suspendable hits constitute “dirty play” and represent a serious risk to the long-term health and well being of other players?

      • Paul Bomber // July 13, 2018 at 7:42 pm //

        It would be great to see the next collective agreement that could see players “easily” suspended for 3 or 4 games for a dangerous hit. This is not a normal union situation….where one union member’s job is to hit another union member as hard as they can. I hate that the PA fights for guys like Hebert, but under the agreement, there isn’t a choice: everyone gets the same support, hitter and hittee

        • Great post Bomber, you clearly explain the dilemma that the CFLPA faces with a dirty player like Hebert. I agree with you that the next CA should contain a provision that establishes that dirty hits that result in an injury to a player will result in a minimum 3 or 4 game suspension. A “hit that results in an injury to a player should be broadly defined as any dirty hit (such as a hit on or below the knees; or a hit where a player leads with his helmet), which results in an injury to a player, where that player has to leave the field of play during a game.

  5. Doug Mc Clintock // July 13, 2018 at 5:08 pm //

    This is hard to fathom, a terrible injury ! The sport is so fast and furious anymore !

    • Despite the fact that the game is “fast and furious” there is still NO excuse, or need for dirty play and dirty hits like the kind that Hebert has consistently levied on the players of opposing teams over the years. These types of “dirty” hits are NOT a part of football; and any such hits should be severly sanctioned with a 3 or 4 game suspension as Paul Bomber suggests in his post above. Only a 3 or 4 game suspension will ensure that a dirty player like Hebert does not rely on these type of plays during a game.

  6. MR. Green // July 13, 2018 at 5:09 pm //

    A player should never have to worry about medical bills regarding injuries recieved from thier career.

  7. Extended medical benefits need to be top priority for the next collective agreement; I for one won’t mind paying a bit more for a game ticket if it means players can be fully protected!

  8. Dundas dude // July 13, 2018 at 6:20 pm //

    One tough hombre.

    I love watching the game, but that is one devastating injury. It is one thing to risk that making millions in the NFL, but another for a hundred thousand Canadian pesos. The health of these incredible athletes is paramount.

    Praying for a speedy recovery.

  9. Sobering to see the agony Hefney is experiencing through all of this, makes you wonder if the risks are worth it?

  10. D_Winnipeg // July 13, 2018 at 7:06 pm //

    I will be interested to see what the details might be for this hypothetical long-term financial support for injured players. For example, who would qualify for such care? If a new player get hurt on the first day of training camp, would he qualify for long-term financial support throughout his rehabilitation, surgeries, etc.? Would a Practice Roster player qualify? If these players do qualify, this could be an exceptionally expensive plan, which is fine if that’s what the players and the league agree to, but as with everything else it would be interesting to see how it is funded. On the other hand, if there are stricter rules (e.g. veteran players only, etc.) then the inequality would remain – it will be interesting to see what the CFLPA’s priorities are on this front during the next CBA negotiations, knowing that the odds of a blanket long-term injuring support program are quite low (in my opinion).

  11. Paul Bomber // July 13, 2018 at 7:33 pm //

    I don’t see how the league can afford to do the right thing.. something has to give…. salaries, bonuses, some kind of roster benefit. Sucks. Totally sucks, but let’s face it…. no matter how awesome this game is or how much we love it, this ain’t no NBA, NHL or NFL. Violent sport in a second tier league…and tons of guys who will do anything to get in it.

  12. Good point Bomber. Not enough money in CFL but perhaps once a player qualifies for pension, he could see some type of health coverage as well. Not sure how it would look though. And wow, people are overboard on the Hebert hysteria. Watch other guys on every play – C.Lang in Tor and S.Chung in WPG to name a couple. There are players in the league worse than Hebert in terms of alleged dirty play. They just don’t get the media attention and therefore people don’t notice.

  13. Add Wynn to that. Spear on Gable is dirtiest play I have seen since that fool in BC broke Rottier’s arm.

  14. Jim Bob // July 14, 2018 at 2:30 am //

    Wishing Hefney the very best in his recovery in his most recent surgery. If there is the WILL by all concerned parties to cover the players who get hurt in the CFL during and after there playing days then there is a WAY to get it done. Creative people in the financial and insurance areas certainly can come up with ways to find the funds. Ticket surcharge, parking, concessions, concerts, insurance supplements etc. can get it done and maintained.

  15. Brett S // July 14, 2018 at 9:02 am //

    I am not opposed to coverage that extends longer but when someone plays a vilent sport with physical contact it can be hard to determine if it is existing enjury prior to when he was insured or when he was insured. It may have been a final hit while playing professional but the actual damage was caused from repetitive hits over the 20 odd years before coming a professional.

  16. Ken orford // July 14, 2018 at 11:54 am //

    As a fan, and fellow human being, I am appalled at the despicable treatment the CFL and its union, has shown for this man. Seriously! Johnathan was a classy man on and off the field. I enjoyed his play and his interviews. I am shocked at this. I simply have no words. Our pets seem to get better treatment.

  17. solara2000 // July 14, 2018 at 5:58 pm //

    Surely the parties should be able to get together and agree on an insurance package to deal with these type of catastrophic events regardless whether the individual player is a training camp casualty, a fresh of the branch rookie or a seasoned starter.
    CFL and CFLPA need to find a solution that provides some reasonable modicum of financial protection.

    • CFLPA should have a contingency fund for these types of tragedies. A group insurance policy to supplement what the league provides would be a good thing.

      • D_Winnipeg // July 17, 2018 at 8:06 pm //

        Who would pay for this? For American players, these treatments (multiple surgeries, hospital stays, rehab, etc.) could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I believe that it would be difficult to find an insurance company to take on this risk at a reasonable cost.

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