Former CFL Great Tackles Orthopaedic Health

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

Now an educator, Hec Pothier advocates lifelong activity for sake of bones and joints

By: Stewart Foxman, Toronto freelance writer

Hector Pothier knows something about tackling big obstacles.  He did it throughout his football career with the Edmonton Eskimos, 1978-1989, when he was among the CFL’s top offensive tackles, and was twice named CFL All-Star.  These days, Pothier is tackling threats to bone and joint health as a volunteer with the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation.

Pothier emcees the Edmonton edition of Hip Hip Hooray!, the Foundation’s signature fundraising campaign.  He’s also a fervent believer in the importance of physical activity to help maintain lifelong bone and joint health.

Following his football career, Pothier became a teacher, and is currently principal of Kameyosek Elementary School in Edmonton.  He takes pride in the intramural sports he runs every recess and lunch.  That’s in addition to the mandatory 30 minutes of phys ed daily.  Such activities, says Pothier, add to a child’s enjoyment of school, and help to create an ongoing fitness habit.

Pothier has a personal interest in the work of the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation to advance orthopaedic care, education and research.  About five years ago, he had a left knee replacement, caused, he says, by years of “wear and tear”.  He played five years of high school football, another five of university football, and 12 years in the CFL, and was also active in recreational lacrosse, hockey and basketball.

“I am president of the Eskimos alumni, and see lots of guys getting joint replacements.  It’s common in our group,” says Pothier.

Maintaining a healthy weight is another concern of his.  Pothier, 6′,3″, carried 280-300 pounds during his football career, and last year was up to 375.  The excess weight contributed to sore knees and ankles.  It’s a vicious cycle, he says.  Inactivity contributes to weight gain, then when you’re in pain and find it tougher to move, you tend to be less active – “It just gets worse.”

Pothier went on a medically-supervised diet, and by April had lost 100 pounds.  He wants to lose another 40, and get to 235.  “That’s the lightest I’ll have been since I was 16,” he says.

The weight loss has already relieved a lot of the strain on his bones and joints, and he’s excited about the possibility of getting back to some favourite activities, like curling and umpiring baseball.

Pothier’s personal journey, and his desire to see his students remain active, fits with the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation’s Because You Can! public awareness campaign.  The campaign aims to promote how Canadians, from a young age, can take proactive steps to improve their bone and joint health and avoid injuries, with the long-term goal of reducing the need for orthopaedic intervention.

“Osteoporosis, arthritis, injuries, knee and hip replacements – all, to some degree, are preventable,” says Angelique Berg, Executive Director of the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation.  “The risks of bone and joint disease can increase significantly due to obesity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and seemingly routine injuries.  Building and maintaining a healthy musculoskeletal system is largely about making lifelong healthy choices.  Learning from people who share their experiences – like Hector – helps us to understand how to put that into practice.”