Penn State Football

Ex-PSU team doctor accuses football coach James Franklin of pressuring him to clear injured players

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Penn State’s former director of athletic medicine is suing the university because he says he was terminated in retaliation for reporting that head football coach James Franklin pressured him to prematurely clear injured players.

According to the complaint filed in Dauphin County on Friday, Dr. Scott A. Lynch accused Franklin of interfering with medical management and return-to-play decisions “on multiple and repeated occasions.” When Lynch reported the behavior to others — among them AD Sandy Barbour, Senior Associate AD Charmelle Green and Athletic Integrity Monitor Robert Boland — Lynch says his recommendations were ignored and he was let go March 1.

Two Penn State spokespeople declined interview requests, but Penn State Health released a statement Monday afternoon and denied the allegations made in Lynch’s whistleblower lawsuit.

“In February 2019, Penn State Health administrators decided to change leadership for athletic medicine and the delivery of care for Intercollegiate Athletics,” the statement read. “This transition was completed with the best interests of student-athletes in mind, given the increasing complexity and growing demands of sports medicine, as well as health care in general.

“While we reject Dr. Lynch’s claims and will vigorously defend our program and its representatives, we remain grateful to him for his five years as director of athletic medicine for Intercollegiate Athletics and for his continued association with Penn State Health.”

No specific instances of Franklin pressuring Lynch were mentioned in Friday’s 43-page complaint, and Franklin remained silent about the allegations Monday. But the mother of defensive end Shane Simmons, a redshirt junior who battled injuries earlier in his career, voiced support for the head coach on social media.

“None of this is true,” Jen Simmons tweeted, calling the allegations “absurd” and “absolute and total BS.”

Lynch served as the team’s orthopedic physician since 2013 and as the director of athletic medicine since 2014. Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, who was the team doctor prior to 2013, resumed his previous duties once Lynch was let go.

According to the complaint, the university initially explained Lynch’s dismissal by saying the program preferred someone who lived in State College as opposed to Hershey, which is about a two-hour drive away. (Lynch has worked at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center since 1997.)

Lynch is seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages. According to the complaint, he “refused to relent to the attempts” of Franklin’s interference in his medical management.

Franklin and the Nittany Lions open their 2019 season against Idaho at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

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