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Mystics star Tina Charles out for WNBA season after receiving medical exemption from bubble

Jack Baer
·Writer
·3-min read

With Elena Delle Donne already looking unlikely to take part in the upcoming WNBA season, the Washington Mystics are officially out another MVP.

Tina Charles, who was acquired earlier this offseason in a trade with the New York Liberty, announced in a Players’ Tribune essay published Friday that she will sit out the WNBA’s shortened season in Florida due to a medical condition.

In her essay, Charles said she was granted an exemption due to her extrinsic asthma while debating on whether or not to play:

While I was going back and forth on it, I received a medical questionnaire from the league. In filling it out, I couldn’t help but notice that I was answering questions about potential susceptibility to health issues with more yes’s than no’s due to an existing medical condition. Our team physician noticed, too. And she flagged me as potentially “high risk.”

My condition, called extrinsic asthma, impacts my immune system and would make playing during a pandemic a very risky and dangerous proposition. So recently the decision about whether to play or not was made for me when the league granted me a medical waiver for the upcoming season.

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Charles described the condition as the immune system reacting to a viral infection or any allergen by overproducing an antibody that causes airway inflammation. So, not something you want to have while a highly contagious lung infection is spreading.

Charles said she learned of the condition after her throat closed up due to air quality issues while playing in China. She wrote it has led to pneumonia, bronchial spasms, wheezing and severe breathing complications occurring at least once a year.

The Mystics will be depleted in the WNBA bubble after Tina Charles opts to skip the season. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
The Mystics will be depleted in the WNBA bubble after Tina Charles opts to skip the season. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

A former first overall pick and WNBA MVP, the 31-year-old Charles averaged 16.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for the Liberty last year. The Mystics had planned to pair Charles with Delle Donne to form a dominant frontcourt as they try to defend their 2019 title.

Now, the team will likely be without both former MVPs.

Mystics are getting hit hard

When the Mystics were last on the court, they were flame-throwing teams on their way to their first-ever championship. With Delle Donne and a supporting cast led by Emma Meesseman and Kristi Toliver, the Mystics had the best offense in the WNBA and posted the league’s best point differential since 2000.

Going into this season, the Mystics had already lost Toliver to the Los Angeles Sparks, but had replaced her at point guard with two-time Most Improved Player of the Year Leilani Mitchell.

The team seemed to cement title favorite status when it traded for Charles, but it has now lost her as well as 2019 starters Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders, who both opted out last month.

As for Delle Donne, she wasn’t granted a medical exemption like Charles despite having chronic Lyme disease that her doctors said should have made her high risk. The Mystics have indicated they will still pay her if she doesn’t play, and the odds of her playing this season look increasingly infinitesimal.

So that’s three 2019 starters poised to miss the season, another lost to free agency, and now the team’s biggest offseason acquisition is out. The odds of a repeat are not looking good.

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