As the 2023 WNBA playoffs begin, teams are still dealing with a number of injuries. Take the Washington Mystics, who will be without Shakira Austin for the first two games of their first-round series against the New York Liberty.
Just Women’s Sports is keeping tabs on the most notable WNBA injuries and, where possible, providing the timetable for the player’s return. This report also includes athletes who are missing the 2023 WNBA season due to pregnancy or maternity leave.
Second-year center Shakira Austin went down on June 25 with a hip strain. An MRI revealed that the injury doesn’t require surgery, but she missed nearly two months as a result.
Austin returned in mid-August in a win over Chicago but has remained limited in her minutes. Weeks later against the Aces, she re-injured the hip that had kept her out nearly two months. She will miss at least the first two games of the Mystics’ first-round series against the New York Liberty.
The two-time WNBA MVP will be out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a left foot fracture, the Las Vegas Aces announced in July.
Parker has been playing on the fracture all season, according to the team, but a recent consultation with doctors revealed that surgery was the best option to return to health and to avoid further injury.
After signing with Las Vegas in the offseason, Parker started the first 18 games of the season for the Aces, averaging 9.0 points per game.
The two-time WNBA MVP injured her left ankle on July 9, but she returned on Aug. 18. The 33-year-old started this season fully healthy for the first time in almost three years after dealing with back issues that kept her sidelined for a significant amount of time.
A stress fracture in her left foot was expected to keep the 22-year-old forward out for at least two weeks, the Fever announced on July 11.
Smith made her returned on Aug. 8 and has been instrumental for Indiana since then, including a career-high 30 points in the team’s overtime win over Dallas on Sunday.
Clarendon returned on July 22, appearing for the first time since June 9. A partial tear of the right plantar fascia ligament in their foot had kept Clarendon off the floor.
Brittney Griner had been out since June 13 with a hip injury but made her return against the Storm on June 24, putting up 11 points and 6 rebounds through 20 minutes.
Hebard gave birth to her son, Xzavier Reid, in April. The Chicago Sky forward returned just 12 weeks later.
“All this has just shown me how much I love the game,” Hebard said one week before making her return on July 9. “I love being around my teammates. I just love everything about basketball. More than anything, I just want to be back.”
The 24-year-old guard tore her labrum against the Las Vegas Aces on June 2, the Dream announced on June 6. She returned to action on July 20.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft sprained her right ankle during Minnesota’s loss to the Dallas Wings on May 30. In a statement, the Lynx said Miller will “be reevaluated in the following weeks and further updates will be issued when available.” Miller scored a career-high 18 points in her return on June 27.
The Mercury also went without Diana Taurasi (hamstring) through three games (all double-digit losses). Taurasi returned on June 24, playing 19 minutes and putting up 13 points and 4 rebounds against Seattle.
The Connecticut Sun announced on June 24 that Brionna Jones suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in a game against the Seattle Storm on June 20 and underwent a successful surgery on June 23.
“While this is not how I envisioned this season ending for me, I am determined and ready to head into the next stage of recovery and rehab. I know I have an amazing support system behind me, and I will return on the other side of this stronger than ever,” Jones said in a statement.
Prior to the injury, Jones was first in the league in offensive rebounds (3.2/game), fifth in steals (1.8), and ninth in field goal percentage (57.1).
“We are heartbroken for Breezy. Anyone who knows her, knows she’s an amazing person, teammate and leader for our group,” said Connecticut Sun head coach Stephanie White.
“On the court, she has worked so hard to position herself as a cornerstone of our franchise and was playing terrific basketball. … As a team, we know we have a job to do, and we will dedicate our work toward the ultimate goal of winning a championship in a way that honors Breezy.”
DeShields missed the regular season with a knee injury, and she remain out for the postseason.
While the 28-year-old guard appeared in a May 5 preseason game against Chicago, she did not travel for the team’s second preseason game out of precaution due to knee soreness. It’s unclear when she could make a return this season.
Gardner will miss the playoffs for Chicago. She missed most of the season after undergoing foot surgery for the break she sustained during a loss to the Washington Mystics on May 26.
The 29-year-old forward missed the season with a knee injury. The Sky revealed in May that Harrison would be out indefinitely after having surgery to repair a torn left meniscus. Harrison, who signed as a free agent with Chicago in February, has played six seasons in the WNBA.
Li will miss the season with a non-WNBA injury, the Sky announced on May 18. She played for Chicago last season but missed the postseason to prepare for the 2022 World Cup with the Chinese national team.
The former UConn star underwent knee surgery during the first week of the season and missed the season as a result. The 25-year-old wing was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 draft.
The 28-year-old forward signed with the Sparks in the offseason but tore her Achilles while playing for the Adelaide Lightning in Australia in February.
The 36-year-old guard suffered a torn ACL in early September, which will sideline for the 2023 playoffs.
“I’m not going to lie: Emotionally, I’m shocked,” the Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne said. “You try to do the whole thing where you want to rally for [Toliver], but we were sick. Just sick. What she’s been through with her foot, how much she’s worked to get back — and she’s feeling good. She’s talking about even next year and all those things. To see something like that happen at this point in her career, it just sucks. … She’s such a great person. So it’s brutal.”
Achonwa gave birth to her first child, son Maverick, in April and missed the WNBA season on maternity leave.
Achonwa, a member of the WNBA players’ union executive committee, helped negotiate for many of the pregnancy protections and maternity benefits that were included in the league’s 2020 collective bargaining agreement.
“Previously if you were out on maternity leave you’d get fifty per cent of your base salary,” Achonwa told SportsNet.
“I will receive my full salary this year whether I’m able to make it back or not — so pending clearance from doctors and trainers and stuff like that to see if I will make it back by the end of the year — but knowing that my family will be taken care of financially while I’m out on maternity leave was huge.”
Diggins-Smith is out on maternity leave after giving birth to her second child during the WNBA offseason and her return timeline is unclear.
“I’m not really worried about snapping back,” she recently told Essence. “I just want to enjoy this time with my daughter.”
Samuelson welcomed a baby girl in August, and her pregnancy kept out of the 2023 season. The 25-year-old forward averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 29.5 minutes per game in 2022.
“Life is full of surprises and 2023 surprised us in the best way possible!” she wrote in a social media announcement of her pregnancy. “We can’t wait to welcome the newest member of our family!”
Emma Hruby and Alex Azzi contributed to this report.