The 28th WNBA season starts tonight, and one of the week's most anticipated games will be played without two of its biggest stars. 

Phoenix center Brittney Griner and Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray are currently both sidelined with injuries, unfortunately missing out on the head-to-head clash that officially kicks off the 2024 season.

Griner is out with a left foot toe fracture, the Mercury announced on Monday. She’ll be out for an unspecified amount of time, and will be re-evaluated in the coming weeks. 

The 6-foot-9 starter is a major loss for Phoenix, as she added some much needed size to the guard-heavy roster. The team is scheduled to play eight games throughout the month of May, including two against defending champs Las Vegas along with a road game against the stacked New York Liberty. 

Gray, meanwhile, has been ruled out for the Aces’ season opener. She injured her foot during the WNBA Finals last season and spent much of training camp rehabbing the lingering knock. The former Finals MVP recently signed a contract extension with Las Vegas.

"We'll be reevaluating her daily, but also probably in a couple of weeks," head coach Becky Hammon said. "She's a little dinged up right now, so we'll take that one step at a time."

The Aces square off against the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday at 10 PM ET.

Two NWSL teams avoided some major setbacks on Thursday, as both Portland’s Morgan Weaver and Orlando’s Angelina were cleared of season-ending injuries after undergoing scope procedures earlier this week. 

Angelina has been described by her club as "week-to-week," while Weaver has been placed on Portland’s 45-day injury list. 

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The Thorns won their May 4th game without Weaver 2-1, continuing their season turnaround, while the Pride remain one of two unbeaten teams in the NWSL.

In other injury list news, Christen Press posted a video on Thursday of her running with a trainer and doing drills, providing further updates on her road back from a June 2022 ACL tear.

Angel City coach Becki Tweed has told reporters that Press is back with the team, but has not issued a timetable for her return to the field.

Kamilla Cardoso will not make her regular season WNBA debut with the Chicago Sky for some time, with the Chicago Sun-Times reporting Monday that she's expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks with a shoulder injury. 

The No. 3 overall pick in last month’s WNBA Draft suffered the knock in the team’s preseason game this past Friday. She hasn’t fully participated in practice since, and will await reevaluation while undergoing recovery measures. 

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That timeline means that she won't be suiting up for the team’s May 15th season opener, with her potential return estimated around June 17th. Depending on her status, Cardoso might miss up to 13 games total, an absence that could have a serious impact on team development.

Fellow Sky rookie Bryanna Maxwell — drafted by Chicago No. 13 overall this year — will also be out three to four weeks with a knee injury.

"They’re working their butts off to get better and get themselves back into it," Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile. "This is a long season. We want to make sure we take care of each player."

Cardoso is coming off of an undefeated NCAA national championship run with South Carolina, where she was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. A two-time national champion, the 6-foot-7 center racked up six points and four rebounds in 13 minutes of Friday's 92-81 loss to the Lynx before exiting the game due to injury.

On Tuesday, FIFPRO announced the launch of Project ACL, a three-year research initiative designed to address a steep uptick in ACL injuries across women's professional football.

Project ACL is a joint venture between FIFPRO, England’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Nike, and Leeds Beckett University. While the central case study will focus on England’s top-flight Women's Super League, the findings will be distributed around the world.

ACL tears are between two- and six-times more likely to occur in women footballers than men, according to The Guardian. And with both domestic and international programming on the rise for the women’s game, we’ve seen some of the sport's biggest names moved to the season-ending injury list with ACL-related knocks.

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Soccer superstars like Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead, Catarina Macario, Marta, and England captain Leah Williamson have all struggled with their ACLs in recent years, though all have since returned to the field. In January, Chelsea and Australia forward Sam Kerr was herself sidelined with the injury, kicking off a year of similar cases across women’s professional leagues. And just yesterday, the Spirit announced defender Anna Heilferty would miss the rest of the NWSL season with a torn ACL. The news comes less than two weeks after Bay FC captain Alex Loera went down with the same injury. 

Project ACL will closely study players in the WSL, monitoring travel, training, and recovery practices to look for trends that could be used to prevent the injury in the future. Availability of sports science and medical resources within individual clubs will be taken into account throughout the process.

ACL injuries in women's football have long outpaced the same injury in the men's game, but resources for specialized prevention and treatment still lag behind. Investment in achieving a deeper, more specialized understanding of the problem should hopefully alleviate the issue both on and off the field.

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

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Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Megan Rapinoe was subbed out of Saturday’s NWSL game between the OL Reign and Kansas City Current with an apparent calf injury, a concerning sight for the two-time World Cup champion just days ahead of the USWNT’s World Cup roster release.

Rapinoe started the game, but within the first minute of play, was seen massaging her lower leg. Play was stopped in the second minute after Rapinoe sat down on the field and OL Reign’s trainers stepped on to assess her condition. After attempting to jog it off on the sidelines, she exited the field to return to the locker room in the fifth minute and was replaced by Veronica Latsko. The Reign went on to win Saturday’s game, 2-1.

“She’s ok, I think. I truly don’t know the severity of it,” OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said, noting that the team may have handled the situation differently if the World Cup wasn’t just weeks away. “I’m glad she could get out quickly and not have to push through it.”

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski is expected to announce his World Cup roster in just over a week, with Steven Goff of the Washington Post reporting that players are expected to be told of their status by this Thursday, June 15.

After dealing with an ankle injury during the NWSL offseason, Rapinoe missed the first two games of the 2023 season and wasn’t available for selection for April’s USWNT friendlies against Ireland due to a calf injury. But since late April, she has started every OL Reign game and logged consistent minutes — until Saturday night.