Liberty's Asia Durr details struggles, career concerns as COVID-19 'long hauler'

Cassandra Negley
·5-min read

When New York Liberty guard Asia Durr announced in July she would not play in the 2020 WNBA season, she cited a “complicated and arduous” battle against COVID-19.

Nearly eight months after she first tested positive for the virus on June 8, a “great day” for Durr is being able to go to the store and clean the house. She hasn’t been able to shoot a free throw, let alone train.

Durr, the No. 2 overall pick out of Louisville in the 2019 WNBA draft, is considered a COVID-19 “long hauler.” In theory she has recovered from the worst parts of the virus, but she still experiences debilitating symptoms weeks and months later.

She shared her experience on the season premiere of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” as part of a segment on “long haul” athletes.

Durr describes COVID-19 ‘long haul’

Durr, 23, told “Real Sports” correspondent Mary Carillo her life has “completely changed” since her positive test.

She said she had “lung pain that was so severe it felt like somebody took a long knife and was just stabbing you in your lungs each second. I woke up 2 o’clock in the morning vomiting, going back and forth to the bathroom. I couldn’t keep anything down.”

She said she’s lost 32 pounds — 21 percent of the 5-foot-10 guard’s listed body weight with the Liberty. While she’s doing better now than she was in June, her days look very different.

“There’s days where I feel great where I can go out and go to the store or I can clean up,” Durr said. “And then there’s days where I’m like, I just have to stay in the bed. You just feel like you get hit by a bus.”

Will Durr be able to play basketball again?

Asia Durr.
New York Liberty's Asia Durr has experienced COVID-19 symptoms for eight months. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Durr opted out of the 2020 WNBA season as a “medical high risk player” and was unable to join her team in France when the Liberty season ended.

She told Carillo the question of if she’d ever be able to play basketball again has crossed her mind. Carillo asked the last time Durr picked up a ball after COVID.

“I haven’t been able to [pick up a ball],” Durr said. “It’s really challenging for me. But I’ve talked to doctors and they’ve told me I’m not cleared yet. I’m not cleared to be able to do anything physically, which could cause flare-ups [is] what they call it. And that’s what’s really hard for me because in life whenever something was hard I would go and play. I can’t even do that now. I can’t even shoot a free throw.”

She thanked supporters on Twitter after the episode and said she is working to come back despite the difficulties.

Durr left Louisville ranked second in career points (2,485) and made 3-pointers (374). She was named the Dawn Staley Award Winner for best guard and Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Winner for best shooting guard ahead of being drafted.

Her rookie season was marred by a hip injury and a struggling Liberty team that ended up with the No. 1 draft pick in 2020 used on Oregon sensation Sabrina Ionescu. The tandem was an enticing one, but Durr opted out and Ionescu injured her ankle. The Liberty again have the No. 1 pick and will be an exciting team to watch in the coming years. But Durr’s health, and deeper research about the impact of COVID-19 over time, is most important.

Athletes aren’t exempt from COVID-19 impacts

The episode checked in with Natalie Hakala, a 22-year-old track and field athlete for Concordia University who a year ago was “the picture of physical health.” Her running journal turned into a detailed symptom journal dating back to July 5.

The piece included University of St. Thomas hockey player Nicole Knudson and an interview with Dr. Emily Brigham, a pulmonologist researching long-term effects of COVID-19. Researchers believe about 10 percent of people who test positive for COVID-19 will become long haulers.

Athletes and overall healthy individuals are not exempt from the worst symptoms of COVID-19 and the number of deaths is not the only thing to consider when attempting to stop the spread of the virus. It can lead to negative impacts over one’s lifetime that potentially alter dreams and career pathways.

More from Yahoo Sports: