Playing a professional sport puts a lot of stress on the body. There’s a reason athletes talk about feeling their best at the beginning of a season. Injuries and fatigue build up as the year goes along.
If a player is fortunate enough to play through bumps and bruises sustained during the year, they usually get the offseason to recover. That has not been the case with WNBA players this year.
A number of players have already experienced injuries while playing in the FIBA World Cup. It’s reached a point where some WNBA players have called out the league — and FIBA — for not allowing players to have adequate rest between the end of the WNBA season and the start of the FIBA World Cup.
The WNBA season ended Sept. 18, when the Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the Finals. The FIBA World Cup — which takes place in Australia — began Sept. 22.
If a WNBA player appeared in the Finals and then played in the FIBA World Cup, they wouldn’t really get any days off. That’s exactly what happened to WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, who joined Team USA late due to appearing in the WNBA Finals. Chelsea Gray, Brionna Jones, Kelsey Plum, Alyssa Thomas and Jones were also arrivals to Team USA due to playing in the Finals.
The lack of time off has already resulted in injuries for WNBA players. During a win over Serbia in the quarterfinals, Ariel Atkins, Kahleah Copper and Betnijah Laney all left with injuries. Copper’s injury appears to be the most serious, as she will have imaging done after landing hard on her hip. Those injuries have prompted other WNBA players to speak up.
The WNBA did adjust its schedule to accommodate the FIBA World Cup, but not in a way that helped the players. The league held the Finals earlier so players wouldn’t miss much time if they played in the WNBA Finals and then wanted to play for Team USA.
While Team USA has benefitted from the change, some WNBA players are already burned out after playing a full season.