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Injuries: a medical review of the 2014 season

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Concussions! Torn hip labrums! Neck strains! We look back at all of the players in 2014 and all of the reasons why they couldn't take the court. Were some teams hit harder than others?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There is probably one thing that team owners, team general managers, coaches, players, and fans hate with equal fervor - injuries. An injury can throw the entire team's balance out of whack. No matter what time an injury comes, it's rarely at a good time.  Yes, you might be able to get a new player to fill a roster spot if the injury happens before the season starts but it's usually not a player of the quality of the injured one.  And players who have season-ending injuries have to deal with multiple physical and psychological injuries.

The world of injuries hasn't really been examined except in individual cases:  "how well is player X coming back from injury Y?"  In aggregate, it might be interesting to look at all the injuries from the 2014 WNBA season and see if anything stands out.

Looking at injuries, however, isn't so simple as grabbing a list from someone.  In the box score, oft times it states that a player did not play (DNP - coach's decision) without any explanation why.  Sometimes the player herself doesn't know the extent of her injury and if she'll be back tomorrow, or next month, or next season.  Sometimes a player comes back from an injury, comes back too soon, and then has to go right back to the DNP (did not play), NWT (not with team), DND (did not dress) or some other status indicating more recovery time.

As a result, the list below requires a lot of guesswork.  I'll lay out some of my assumptions.

*  Pre-season games are counted.  Why? Because an injury that affects the regular season might have actually taken place during the pre-season. We are very interested in time frames.  How many days off?  How many games off?  Did the injury actually end the player's season?

*  If a player is injured during a game, the day of the game counts as injury time.

*  Sometimes we're lucky enough to know that a player's injury took place during a practice on Day X.  In which case, we can start our count from Day X. Else, we have to start the count from the first day that we know the player was injured.

Is a player's injury a season-ending injury? Good question, and one with no easy answer.  Take Celine Dumerc's knee sprain at the end of the Atlanta season.  Is that a season-ending injury?  Even though it only affected her for three games, we have to assume that it was one.

*  If a player comes back too soon, we count the game appearance as actual injury time.  Even though San Antonio's Jia Perkins felt well enough to come back for one game against Atlanta during her time out with a hamstring strain, she took the next game off.  So we count Perkins as fully injured for that game, because clearly she was still having problems that weren't resolved.

*  What about those cases where a player has mental exhaustion (like Chicago's Epipphany Prince) or goes off to the Euroleague qualifiers (like Phoenix's Evelina Kobryn)?  Even though technically these aren't injuries, we include them anyway. An "injury" is anything that interrupts the player's ability to appear in a game, even though nothing might be damaged.

"Aha!  You forgot Player X was injured before the season, and she's not on your list!" Yep, in that case put her name and injury in the comments below, so I can add her to my record-keeping.

The list of injuries for 2014 follows below:

Days Games Season Ending?
Indiana Pohlen Achilles tendon (torn) L 122 42 1
Connecticut Jones Achilles tendon L 106 36 1
Atlanta Milton-Jones Achilles tendon R 45 18 1
Indiana Carter ankle R 1 1 0
Indiana Carter ankle sprain (severe) 1 1 0
Phoenix Phillips ankle sprain L 1 1 0
Connecticut Douglas back 1 1 0
Indiana Catchings back 58 21 0
Indiana Clarendon back 2 2 0
Washington Lawson back 3 2 0
Atlanta Ajavon calf R 3 2 0
Indiana Clarendon concussion 2 2 0
Washington Lawson dehydration 1 1 0
Connecticut Ogwumike dental procedure (abscessed tooth) 4 2 0
Phoenix Kobryn Eurobasket 25 8 0
Phoenix Murphy Eurobasket 4 2 0
Indiana Kizer family 2 2 0
Seattle Little family 1 1 0
Connecticut Cain foot L 8 3 0
Atlanta McCoughtry foot tendonitis LR 4 2 0
San Antonio Johnson hamstring strain R 3 2 0
San Antonio Perkins hamstring strain R 31 12 0
Chicago Fowles hip tear labrum R 45 15 0
Atlanta de Souza illness 1 1 0
Connecticut Griffin illness (GI) 1 1 0
Indiana January knee 1 1 0
San Antonio White knee ACL R 92 33 1
New York Pierson knee ACL R (recovery) 8 3 0
New York Williams knee ACL tear R 104 37 1
Connecticut Hightower knee arthoscopic L 57 20 1
Minnesota Brunson knee arthoscopic surgery R 73 26 0
Indiana January knee bruise R 1 1 0
Seattle Wright knee bruise R 11 5 0
Minnesota Augustus knee bursitis L 13 4 0
Minnesota Augustus knee bursitis R 10 4 0
New York Pierson knee injury L 1 1 0
Minnesota Augustus knee injury L 1 1 0
Chicago Vandersloot knee MCL sprain L 48 18 0
Los Angeles Wiggins knee meniscus L 43 15 0
Seattle Jackson knee R and Achilles L 99 35 1
Atlanta Dumerc knee sprain 5 3 0
Los Angeles Parker knee strain L 1 1 0
Washington Milovanovic knee strain R 31 11 0
Minnesota Wright knee surgery L 40 13 0
Minnesota Peters knee surgery L 22 8 0
Tulsa Williams knee surgery L 50 20 1
Los Angeles Ogwumike low back strain 1 1 0
Chicago Delle Donne Lyme disease 52 17 0
Chicago Prince mental exhaustion 14 4 0
Seattle Stricklen neck strain 1 1 0
Minnesota Dantas personal 15 6 0
Washington Hill pregnancy 89 30 0
Atlanta McCoughtry rhomboid strain 1 1 0
Los Angeles Toliver Russia 13 7 0
Chicago Breland shin R 4 2 0
Tulsa Jackson-Jones shin splints R 59 23 0
Chicago Breland shoulder R 3 2 0
Washington Vaughn suspension 1 1 0
Connecticut McCray thumb ligament L 32 13 0
Seattle O'Hea toe broken L 11 5 0
1482 554 8



Some observations:

1. Achilles tendon issues are nasty.  They took out three players this season, four if you count Seattle's Lauren Jackson.

2. The next most critical injury?  Knee injuries.  Lots of players lost game time to one knee injury or another.

3. Back injuries seem like the most unpredictable.  If you have a bad back, you might just bounce back from it in a few games.  Or, like Indiana's Tamika Catchings, it might lay you out for most of the season.

So which teams got the worst of the injury bug?

Days Games Season Ending?
Atlanta 59 27 1
Chicago 166 58 0
Connecticut 209 76 2
Indiana 190 73 1
New York 113 41 1
Washington 125 45 0
Los Angeles 58 24 0
Minnesota 174 62 0
Phoenix 30 11 0
Seattle 126 47 1
San Antonio 123 47 1
Tulsa 109 43 1
1482 554 8



I find it very interesting that Phoenix, which had such a wonderful season, had the least amount of injury time.  They were relatively healthy all year and kept a full roster most of the year.  Virtually every "injury" they had was Kobryn and Murphy going off for the Eurobasket qualifiers.  Minnesota, on the other hand, had lots of players with knee issues that affected the first two-thirds of the season. If the situations were reversed, would Minnesota have been celebrating a WNBA championship in 2014?  Having home court advantage could have helped Minnesota against Phoenix.

In the Eastern Conference, Atlanta was fairly blessed despite DeLisha Milton-Jones going out for the season with an Achilles tendon issue.  They won first place in the Eastern Conference.  Chicago had players out for so much of the season that Pokey Chatman said that the roster ofttimes looked like the list from a MASH unit.  But the Sky was healthy when it was important to be healthy - the playoffs - and it showed as Chicago made its first WNBA Finals appearance.

Even though you might think that Chicago had the most injury time, an argument could be made that Connecticut, Indiana and Minnesota were harder hit.  Connecticut lost two players to season-ending injuries. Asjha Jones's came before the season started, and Allison Hightower's came during the season.

For grins, I decided to look at the mathematical correlation between games/days injured and season wins.  There is a connection, but it's slight at best.  A better argument could be made for a connection between season wins and season-ending injuries.  New York, Seattle, San Antonio and Tulsa all had players with season-ending injuries, and none of those teams were really spectacular.

I'll try to follow up on the topic at the end of the 2015 season.  I'm sure that a lot of general managers and coaches have better information than we do, though.  Let's hope that all the players on this list come back healthy and happy for next year.


James Bowman is also a writer for AtlantaDream.net.