Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage has received a medical exemption for this WNBA season, coach Bill Laimbeer confirmed Wednesday, which means she will get her full salary.
Laimbeer said Cambage, a 28-year-old from Australia who was the No. 2 draft pick in 2011, wanted to play this WNBA season. But she fell severely ill while playing in China over the winter and then was ruled a medically high-risk player by the Aces' team doctor in June. She then had to wait to see if the WNBA would challenge that, but Laimbeer said it did not.
The WNBA has not announced which players have received medical exemptions, leaving that to the teams and players themselves. Teams that have a player declared medically exempt can keep them on the roster but sign a replacement player if they chose.
Some players voluntarily chose to opt out of this WNBA season, which begins Saturday in Bradenton, Florida, for various reasons, including health concerns. They will not get paid.
Other players along with Cambage who have received exemptions for this season and will be paid include Washington center Tina Charles, Phoenix forward Jessica Breland and New York guard Asia Durr.
Durr initially announced on July 7 that she was "opting out" due to illness after testing positive for the coronavirus on June 8. However, it was subsequently determined by an independent medical panel that Durr was, in fact, medically exempt, the Liberty confirmed Wednesday.
WNBA players had to fill out medical questionnaires in June, which were then reviewed by team physicians as the players were evaluated for potential risk factors should they compete this season. Cambage was declared "protected" as a high-risk player at that time by the Aces' team doctor, which meant she was excused because of a preexisting condition that could present a direct threat to her health had she participated this season.
But the league had the option of reviewing all players who were declared protected by their teams before they were granted medical exemptions. If the league chose to review a case, it was sent to the independent medical panel, which was established by the league and the players' union.
Cambage revealed in March that she thinks she got the coronavirus in December while playing in China.
"I actually was sick in hospital, and I honestly think I had corona," Cambage told The Herald Sun in Australia. "'I was so weak, I couldn't walk, I was in a wheelchair. I had pneumonia. I think I had it before it was a global thing."
Laimbeer said that Cambage still hoped to compete this WNBA season before she was ruled out by the team physician.
"Our team doctor said, 'No, she's not going to play in this environment,'" Laimbeer said. "The league said, 'Wait, we're maybe going to put her in front of the panel.' We're of the position that we stand by our medical staff. Then it became beyond our control regarding whatever happened.
"About a week ago, we got a call from the league saying that they were not going to challenge the decision on Liz."
Therefore, her case did not go before the medical panel.
Washington forward Elena Delle Donne, the 2019 MVP, revealed last week that she was denied a medical exemption after her case was reviewed by the medical panel. Delle Donne has dealt with Lyme disease for several years and was critical of the panel's decision.
However, the Mystics said that she would receive her salary as she continues to rehab from back surgery earlier this year. Because Delle Donne did not receive an exemption but is still on the Mystics' roster, Washington can't sign a replacement player for her.