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Suit: PSU Coach Tried to Influence Medical Decisions

Paul Steinbach

A former Penn State University team doctor has filed a lawsuit alleging that head football coach James Franklin improperly tried to influence his decision-making on injured athletes and pressured him to return them to the field, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Scott Lynch, who was removed March 1 as the football team’s orthopedic physician and the university’s director of athletic medicine, filed the suit Friday in Dauphin County Court in Harrisburg listing several defendants, including the university, Franklin, vice president of athletics Sandy Barbour, Penn State Health, and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, his employer.

Lynch was named orthopedic physician for the football team in February 2013, nearly a year before the hiring of Franklin. The job of director of athletic medicine was added in August 2014. At the time of his removal, Lynch was replaced by Wayne Sebastianelli, who held that role at Penn State previously for two decades before being reassigned in 2014.

As reported by the Inquirer, the suit contends that Lynch’s removal from his position was punishment for reporting to the appropriate authorities about Franklin’s actions and a violation of the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law. The suit also claims Lynch was released in an effort by the university to avoid scandal.

Specifically, the suit accuses Franklin of “creating a culture and climate which obstructed” his ability to make “diagnostic, therapeutic and return-to-play decisions in connection with the best practices of medical management” for Penn State’s student-athletes.

According to the Associated Press, Lynch is seeking $50,000 in damages.

Lynch worked out of Penn State Health's Hershey headquarters. His suit alleges that the defendants “crafted a false narrative” in explaining the decision to remove him in March, claiming it wanted an orthopedic surgeon who resided in PSU's campus community of State College rather than one in Hershey, which is about 100 miles away.

“In February 2019, Penn State Health administrators decided to change leadership for athletic medicine and the delivery of care for Intercollegiate Athletics. 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,” reads a statement from Penn State Health, a health care provider serving central Pennsylvania. “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.”

In addition to serving the athletic department as a physician, Lynch wrestled for Penn State in the 1980s, winning a national championship in 1984 and earning All-American honors three times.

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