Elena Delle Donne is the WNBA’s reigning MVP and a 2019 WNBA champion, but her health puts her at risk for the coronavirus this season, according to her personal physician.
Three physicians jointly convened by the WNBA Players Association and WNBA did not agree, and that puts Delle Donne in a compromising position. Her request to opt out of the season for health reasons was denied. This means that she has to make a choice: either sit out the season and forfeit her salary or take a risk and play.
“I appreciate that the league has worked incredibly hard to provide as safe an environment as possible for us to play basketball,” Delle Donne said Monday in a statement to ESPN. “I know it’s been a huge effort. I love my team, and we had an unbelievable season last year, and I want to play! But the question is whether or not the WNBA bubble is safe for me.”
Delle Donne, 30, has been vocal about her battle with Lyme disease. The Wilmington native believes she got the disease in 2008. Her first relapse came two years later in college at Delaware. She has battled muscle aches and fatigue and has taken supplements offset the effects.
At one point, Delle Donne told her parents she thought she was dying after rarely eating and losing 35 pounds. She eventually got a personal physician who has advised her though her battle.
“My personal physician who has treated me for Lyme disease for years advised me that I’m at high risk for contracting and having complications from COVID-19,” Delle Donne said.”The independent panel of doctors the league appointed to review high-risk cases [has] advised that I’m not high risk, and should be permitted to play in the bubble.”
The three-member panel was part of the agreement between the WNBA and the union‘s return-to-play plans. Players cannot appeal the decisions.
Phoenix Mercury forward Jessica Breland’s opt-out was approved by the panel because she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma in college. Lyme disease is not one of the medical conditions listed by CDC as putting people at higher risks.
A six-time All-Star who led the Mystics to the title last season, Delle Donne has not made a final decision on her plans. Teammate and former St. Joseph’s star Natasha Cloud has already opted out of the season to use her platform to fight social injustice.
Health is the most important factor for Delle Donne, and with the Mystics’ season beginning July 25, a decision will come soon.