Elena Delle Donne may miss rest of Mystics' season with back, nerve pain

Elena Delle Donne has had two back surgeries over the last two years, but back issues are continuing to plague her — so much so that she might miss the rest of the Washington Mystics' season. 

Mystics head coach Mike Thibault announced on Thursday that Delle Donne, who hasn't played since Aug. 26 (which was only her third game back), likely won't play on Friday against the Atlanta Dream due to a back issue. The bad news didn't stop there, unfortunately. The back issue has caused some nerve pain to flare up, and now her participation in the rest of the season is in jeopardy. 

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Delle Donne, who sat out the entire 2020 bubble season due to health concerns, has played in only three games since the Mystics' 2019 championship. All three came at the end of August, when the two-time MVP triumphantly made her return after 682 days. Despite being on a minutes restriction, she looked great in her first two games, averaging 17 points. 

Her third game is where she ran into trouble. Twelve minutes into the game against the Dallas Wings, she was pulled after fighting for a rebound. Thibault said it was for "precautionary" reasons, but Delle Donne hasn't played since. The news that she's experiencing more back pain — especially after two surgeries — feels pretty dire. 

Delle Donne is an all-time WNBA player, the very first to join the 50-40-90 club. She's made six All-Star teams over her eight seasons. She's also just 32 years old, which feels too young to think about her retiring. But if she can't get these back problems sorted out so she can play (and live her life) pain-free, her options to keep playing may be limited.