Doctors have denied a WNBA star’s request to opt out of the 2020 season due to a medical condition. The league was set to begin its regular season on May 15, but the coronavirus outbreak forced an indefinite delay.
As teams report to “training camp” to prepare for an abbreviated 22-game season starting on July 24, players as concerned with the health risks.
WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics received some disappointing news on Monday. A panel of doctors denied her request to opt out of the upcoming WNBA season for medical reasons.
Delle Donne, who has battled Lyme disease for several years, is concerned about how her body would react should she contract coronavirus. The physicians that rejected her plea don’t seem to be as worried. They conclude she is not at high risk of contracting the virus and should be allowed to play.
“The independent panel of doctors the league appointed to review high-risk cases have advised that I’m not high risk, and should be permitted to play in the bubble,” Delle Donne said in a statement.
Lyme disease is not including on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of underlying conditions that are susceptible to coronavirus. The panel of doctors approved by the league and the WNBPA considered the CDC’s guidelines in their decision.
Delle Donne’s own personal physician, however, disagrees with the panel’s assessment. Her doctor believes she is most certainly at high risk.
On Wednesday, Delle Donne told CNN that she was severely concerned with the panel’s decision. Not only was she surprised by the denial, she wasn’t given an opportunity to appeal.
“I was shocked. And the process makes it hard because there’s no ability to even appeal and I wasn’t able to speak with the panel.”
Delle Donne’s agent, Eric Kane, said “her initial reaction was disbelief.”
“I know doctors don’t always agree with each other and that there are different opinions on certain things within the medical community. Now I have a player who is in an incredibly difficult situation because of the way things lined up,” Kane said.
Della Donne went into further detail regarding the toll the disease takes on her and why she’s concerned about returning to the court amid the pandemic.
“It does [take a toll], and it scares me. I mean I know that’s not safe. I know that being on antibiotics for a long period of time isn’t healthy,” she lamented.
“But I also know that when I don’t take that medication I feel awful. I can’t play basketball. I can’t even get out of bed at times, so it’s just kind of what I have to do to live the most normal life possible.”
Della Donne said she is still weighing her options whether to play this season.
“I love my team, and we had an unbelievable season last year. I want to play! But the question is whether or not the WNBA bubble is safe for me,” she said. “I’m thinking things over, talking to my doctor and my wife, and look forward to sharing what I ultimately plan to do very soon.”
Whatever she decides to do, the Mystics organization plans to pay her.
“She is part of our roster. She is being paid. And is continuing to rehab from her offseason back surgery,” head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said.
“If at some point in the season we are all comfortable… with her physical progress… we will make those arrangements. If we don’t feel that, then she will continue to do her workouts in DC…”