WNBA Star Elena Delle Donne’s Plight Sheds Light on Lyme Disease

NATIONWIDE – Reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, of the Washington Mystics, recently was denied a medical opt-out request over coronavirus concerns.


What You Need To Know

  • Elena Delle Donne, of the Washington Mystics, details struggle with Lyme disease in letter
  • CDC identifies Lyme disease are fairly rare but potentially debilitating if left untreated
  • Lyme disease vaccine currently unavailable 
  • Numerous preventative measures can be taken to prevent tick bite

That denial prompted Delle Donne to write a letter, which was published in the Players’ Tribute, detailing her struggle to keep Lyme disease symptoms controlled enough to allow her to keep playing.

Among other routines, Delle Donne wrote that she takes 64 pills per day.

“Taking 64 pills a day is the only way to keep my condition under any sort of control. It’s the only way to keep myself healthy enough to play the game that I love — healthy enough to do my job and earn the paycheck that supports my family,” she wrote.

So what is Lyme disease? It’s fairly rare, but it can be debilitating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans and animals by infected blacklegged ticks.

Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash called erythema migrans. If the infection is left untreated, it can spread to the heart, joints and nervous system.

In most cases Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. However, if left untreated the infection can lead to numerous symptoms including severe headaches and neck stiffness, facial palsy, arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, intermittent pain in the tendons, heart palpations or an irregular heartbeat, episodes of shortness of breath or dizziness, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and nerve pain.

According to the CDC, a Lyme disease vaccine is no longer available. Its production was ceased in 2002 due to a lack of demand. If you were vaccinated for Lyme disease prior to 2002, it is likely that you are no longer protected from it.

There are measures you can take to prevent tick bite. Ticks live in grassy, brushy and wooded areas. You could be bitten while camping, gardening or hunting, but many people gets ticks in their yards or neighborhoods.

Try treating your clothing with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. In addition to clothing, permethrin can be applied to boots and camping gear and will remain protective through several washings.

Use EPA-registered insect repellents. Always follow product instructions.

Walk in the center of trails and avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

It’s possible to bring ticks into your home. Ticks on clothing should be immediately removed. Put your clothes in a dryer and set it for high heat. Tumble for approximately 10 minutes. It’s also advised you check pets carefully for ticks.

Showering within two hours of being outdoors has been shown to reduce the likelihood of Lyme disease. Be sure to check your body for ticks after returning from the outdoors. Inspect the following places:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around hair
  • Around the waist
  • Between legs

If you display symptoms and have had a tick bite, live in an area known for Lyme disease or have recently visited one, you are urged to seek immediate medical attention.