Lyme disease never far from thoughts of WNBA star Delle Donne

Tue Sep 15, 2015 10:01am EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - Chicago Sky head coach Pokey Chatman needs only a brief glance at Elena Delle Donne, one of the brightest stars in the WNBA, to know when the high-scoring forward is going to need a break.

"Pokey can look at me in the morning and tell how I'm doing," said Delle Donne, the league's top scorer. "And she'll know to give me more rest that day. We're on an eye-contact level at this point."

Delle Donne's fatigue and stiffness on certain days has nothing to so with the rigors of a Women's National Basketball Association season but with the lasting effects of Lyme disease.

A favorite to win the WNBA's MVP award this year, Delle Donne believes she contracted the disease, a bacterial infection often transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick, in 2008.

She says she doesn't know how she exactly how she got the disease and didn't catch it in its early stages as flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and muscle stiffness were misdiagnosed.

Delle Donne finally got the illness, which has no known cure, under control but in 2010 she said she "had a really bad relapse" and has been troubled by it ever since, causing the Delaware native to miss a chunk of last season, including the All-Star game.

She has not missed any time this season as she averages a league-best 23 points, while adding nearly 9 rebounds and 2 blocks, all career highs.

"This season I've been playing well and staying pretty healthy so people just think the disease is gone," she told Reuters. "But it's something I battle every single day."   Continued...

Chicago Sky guard/forward Elena Delle Donne (11) battles for a loose ball with Phoenix Mercury forward Candice Dupree (4) during the second half in game three of the 2014 WNBA Finals at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois in this September 12, 2014 photo.  Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports/Files