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Sue Bird speaks out on injuries plaguing the WNBA

The Storm's Sue Bird and soccer player Megan

The Storm's Sue Bird and soccer player Megan Rapinoe attend the WNBA All-Star Game at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on July 27. Credit: Getty Images / Ethan Miller

Sue Bird is no stranger to injury.

The Syosset native and Seattle guard has missed the entire season while recovering from knee surgery after helping to lead Seattle to the WNBA championship last September.

Bird had surgery to remove a loose body in her left knee in May. The guard has had longtime issues with her left knee and had surgery to remove a cyst in March 2013.

Unlike many of her fellow WNBA stars, she didn’t play overseas this offseason — and she says that those who did could be at even more of an injury risk.

“Injury is part of sport,” Bird told Newsday on Sunday. “There’s not one main thing, but the fact that a lot of players play year-round is not a good thing no matter how you slice it, whether they got injured or not.”

Eighty-nine athletes from the WNBA — nearly 62 percent — played overseas, according to the league. This includes Long Island’s Bria Hartley, who returned to the Liberty after playing for France this summer.

Bird, 38, retired from playing overseas in 2014, meaning that winter now brings her some R&R.

When it comes to offseason play, though, Bird doesn’t sugarcoat things.

“The reality is that we have to make a living,” she said. “It’s going to take people sitting down at the table and figuring out how to do it where players aren’t exhausting themselves and getting beat up.”

And if those overseas players happen to be big-name stars, Bird said, the WNBA’s on-court product can suffer even more.

“No, [injury] is not great for the league,” Bird said. “An example is LeBron [James] not playing in the [NBA] playoffs and how big of a deal that was, and that was one player. We have multiple players who aren’t in the league right now.”

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said during an in-game interview with YES Network on Sunday that many WNBA athletes choose to play overseas in the winter to better themselves for in-season play. While they know that the WNBA is their “main job,” Engelbert said, their overseas experiences help them improve.

Bird disagrees.

“I think the fact that we all have to play year-round is not a positive thing,” she said. “In reality, would we all love to just play in one league and that league be here?  Well, of course.”

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