Jules Heningburg: 'This is Just Another Thing on My Plate'

Jules Heningburg boarded the plane headed for Salt Lake City hoping he could join his Redwoods LC teammates in the pursuit of a PLL championship. He knew, though, that there were a few hurdles he’d have to jump through before getting that opportunity.

Heningburg tested positive for COVID-19 on June 21 after being exposed a week earlier. He reported the test results to the PLL’s COVID-19 Task Force and did his due diligence in quarantining for more than two weeks.

When he was cleared to return to the field, he eased into his workouts for two weeks. Then, he upped the intensity in July — all at the advice of the league’s medical team. He felt great and seemed to have recovered fully from the virus that has plagued the nation and the world at-large.

“I was symptom-free from what I knew,” Heningburg told US Lacrosse Magazine on Monday.

Since Heningburg tested positive in June, he was subject to thorough testing as soon as he go to PLL Island in Utah. Once he landed, he took an Uber straight to the testing facility, where he was instructed to go through a series of tests including an Electrocardiogram (EKG) and oxygen level readings.

Doctors were concerned with the findings in the EKG, and the oxygen tests came back showing he had low levels even when walking. Heningburg’s oxygen levels read 10 points lower than normal without strenuous activity.

After the tests, the PLL medical team told him he was at a higher risk for cardiac arrest after intense physical activity. Heningburg knew he couldn't put his life at risk, as did Redwood LC coach Nat St. Laurent.

“I was not concerned with playing at all. It’s a great tournament, but I know that there are much bigger things at play in life. If I put my life at risk for four weeks of playing lacrosse, it’s just an irresponsible decision.” — Jules Heningburg

The PLL Championship Series, which Heningburg had worked for months to prepare for, was over before it began for the emerging attackman. Just as quickly, though, he was able to put the test results, and his life, in perspective.

“It was scary for me to find that out,” he said. “I was not concerned with playing at all. It’s a great tournament, but I know that there are much bigger things at play in life. If I put my life at risk for four weeks of playing lacrosse, it’s just an irresponsible decision.”

Likewise, the decision was an easy yet agonizing one to make for St. Laurent. He traded for Heningburg in the middle of the 2019 season and was looking forward to seeing his progression this season.

“To me, when you’re dealing with something that could cause cardiac arrest, it’s not really a question anymore,” he said. “Knowing how hard Jules has worked, it was a tough decision, but it was the right decision. I wanted him here and wanted to see him develop from speaking out on racial injustice to becoming one of the better players in the league.”

Heningburg, for better or worse, has now been at the focus on the two biggest storylines in America this season as it pertains to the lacrosse community. In June, he shared his story “Standing at a Crossroads” on his experience with racial injustice and has since been a voice for the black lacrosse community.

Now, weeks later, he’s sharing his story on COVID-19 recovery, hoping to show the community the reality that millions of Americans have faced.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise that the two most pressing events in the country right now, racial relations and COVID, are falling on my shoulders,” he said. “It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. I knew when I got diagnosed that that wasn't the end of it. I was compelled to share with the league to let them know that this is a real thing to take seriously.”

Heningburg did take the pandemic seriously throughout the spring and into summer. A San Diego resident, he stayed at home as the state of California ordered. By June, the restrictions had started to loosen.

In mid-June, Heningburg attended a gathering for a friends’ birthday — his first time in a group setting and what he believed to be in-line with the recommendations from his state government. Days later, he found out that a couple of attendees had tested positive for COVID-19.

He didn’t feel symptoms until a week after he was exposed to the virus, but he took the COVID-19 test and it came back positive. In the following days, he felt lethargic and his joints ached. He also said his brain was “foggy” as if he had a concussion.

Once he felt able to leave the house and his quarantine, he started training again in early July. Weeks later in Salt Lake City, Heningburg found out he was putting himself at risk for cardiac arrest. It was a disappointment but possibly a blessing in disguise.

“What I told him was that everyone wants him to be here, but in the grand scope of things, it’s probably a good thing this happened because — if you want to think about the worst-case scenario — if this didn’t happen, it’s a lot worse than what’s going on now,” said Ryder Garnsey, his Redwoods LC teammate.


Heningburg let his teammates know about his test results, and plenty of them offered support both personally and on social media. He cannot stay in the PLL bubble due to unspecified PLL rules, so he will return home on Tuesday night.

Redwoods LC will miss one of the most electric offensive talents in the league, and one that is still growing into his own in pro lacrosse. He’s also accepted a leadership role when it comes to racial injustice both in the sport and outside of it. He was looking forward to joining his teammates in honoring the Black Lives Matter movement during the PLL Championship Series.

He also recently helped launch the Black Lacrosse Alliance alongside several black lacrosse players in the league.

“I’ve had a lot of private conversations, hard conversations, learning from him,” Garnsey said. “Something that I told him when we first started having these conversations was, ‘Look, I’m a white kid who grew up in a very non-diverse area.’ Somebody like Jules, who I’m very comfortable with, has provided an awesome opportunity to learn.”

Heningburg said he’s working with the PLL to stay involved in the league’s efforts while at home. He’ll have to stay inactive until doctors clear him to return to working out and training, so he’ll have time to watch his team in action. He plans on FaceTiming his teammates throughout the Championship Series.

He knows he can’t step on the field this summer, but that hasn’t stopped him from making an impact.

“You are never given more than you can handle, so this is just another thing on my plate,” he said.