Elena Delle Donne in ‘disbelief’ after WNBA denies medical opt-out request

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After consulting with her own physician, Washington Mystics star and reigning league MVP Elena Delle Donne believes she is at a high risk for contracting COVID-19 due to her history with chronic Lyme disease and should be able to medically opt out of the 2020 season.

The WNBA, however, feels otherwise.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Delle Donne and her agent told ESPN on Monday night that the league denied her request to opt out of the season due to medical concerns, meaning she will have to play when the WNBA starts its season this month at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, or not get paid. 

"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, via ESPN.

"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. 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.

"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."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of underlying medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of contracting the coronavirus regardless of age, however that list does not include Lyme disease. 

Delle Donne, 30, has battled chronic Lyme disease since 2008, and is also recovering from back surgery in January — which repaired three herniated discs. 

The panel, which was jointly appointed by the league and the players association, determines whether a player is “high risk” of contracting the coronavirus due to a medical condition. If the panel determines that a player fits into that category, she can opt out of the season and still be paid in full. If not, they will not be paid should they decide not to play.

According to ESPN, the panel of doctors uses the CDC’s guidelines when evaluating high-risk cases. Its decisions, however, are final — meaning Delle Donne can’t appeal.

"When I talked to Elena, her initial reaction was disbelief," said Delle Donne's agent, Erin Kane, via ESPN

"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.”

Delle Donne averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds last season, her seventh in the league, while leading the Mystics to a WNBA title. The six-time All-Star and two-time league MVP did not travel with the team to Florida.

There were more than 3.3 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Sunday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 135,000 deaths attributed to it. The country set a new single-day record on Friday, too, recording more than 70,000 new cases. 

Florida has more than 282,000 confirmed cases, the third-most in the country behind only New York and California, and set a stunning new state record on Sunday with more than 15,000 new cases. 

“It’s still possible she’ll opt out," Kane said, via ESPN. “Like a lot of people, she's making a choice between what's best for her from a health standpoint and what's best for her from a financial standpoint for her and her family."

Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne’s request to opt out of the season over coronavirus concerns related to her Lyme disease was denied on Monday. (G Fiume/Getty Images)
Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne’s request to opt out of the season over coronavirus concerns related to her Lyme disease was denied on Monday. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

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