The WNBA’s panel of physicians denied Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne’s request to sit out the 2020 season.
What we know:
- “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. The league’s opinion is at odds with her own physician’s. Delle Donne’s physician believes she is high risk for coronavirus because of her history with chronic Lyme disease. The WNBA’s decision means that Delle Donne either must play the season or sit out and forgo her salary. The panel was appointed by the league and players association and their decisions are final, meaning Delle Donne cannot appeal.
- Erin Kane, Delle Donne’s agent, commented on the ruling: “I know doctors don’t always agree with each other and that there are different opinions on certain things within the medical community, and now I have a player who is in an incredibly difficult situation because of the way things lined up.” Dr. John Aucott, director of Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Research Center said that he’s not surprised by the WNBA’s decision. “There’s really only a handful of people in the country who are experts in chronic Lyme disease,” Aucott said.
- Lyme disease is not on the CDC’s list of underlying conditions that put someone at risk for coronavirus. According to Aucott, Lyme disease is relatively recent, only being discovered in the U.S. in the late 70s. There are 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year and 5-20% of patients continue to show symptoms after treatment.
- Delle Donne, 30, has battled Lyme disease since 2008 and is coming off of a January surgery for three herniated discs. She is a six-time all-star, former league MVP, and led the Washington Mystics to a WNBA Championship in 2019.
The WNBA will start their 2020 season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida on July 25. WNBA teams have already arrived at the campus and are living under strict housing and medical protocols.