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Penn State ramps up defense of medical care

Michael Mauti AP

Word broke last night that Sports Illustrated would be publishing a piece that was highly critical the lingering sports culture at Penn State in general and the medical care given to student-athletes specifically.

The university responded swiftly, releasing a statement that called the SI report “erroneous” and is essentially an attempt to “sensationalize” a non-issue.  Wednesday afternoon, PSU’s defense of its medical procedures ramped up another notch or two.

Appearing on ESPN‘s “College Football Live” program, head coach Bill O’Brien lashed out at the report, which is not available in full online but a summary can be viewed by clicking HERE.  O’Brien stated that he’s heard from a handful of current and former Nittany Lion football players who would like to know what they can do “to get in front of this” apparently scathing six-page report.

“We here at Penn State would never jeopardize the health and safety of our players. We don’t have any horse in that race,” O’Brien said in quotes provided by PennLive.com. “It’s very upsetting to me that the word out there is that we don’t have proper care for our student-athletes.”

O’Brien added that “the only thing that matters to me” is the safety of his players.

The SI report was particularly critical of the fact that O’Brien made suggestions regarding the medical care of his players, including parting ways with long-time team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli.  O’Brien stated that he merely made the recommendation; it was up to his superiors to make the final call on a change in medical personnel.

“At the end of the year, I met with [athletic director Dave] Joyner and Rod Erickson about a lot of improvements that needed to be made,” O’Brien said. “My recommendation was to move in another direction with the doctors on this team. I don’t do the hiring and firing. That’s for the people above me.”

In addition to O’Brien’s television appearance, Penn State also issued a series of new statements questioning the credibility of the piece.  The one below comes from Dr. Harold Paz, senior vice president for Health Affairs, Chief Executive Officer, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and dean of the College of Medicine:

“The article suggests that the quality of care provided to Penn State student athletes has been jeopardized by a change in team physicians. It simply isn’t the case. Drs. Seidenberg and Lynch, the physicians now responsible for the day-to-day care of Penn State football players are both experienced clinicians, fellowship-trained in Sports Medicine and committed to providing expert medical care to our students athletes.

“Any suggestion that care is being compromised by the change in physician assignments is both unsubstantiated and incorrect.

“The article further suggests that Dr. Sebastianelli is no longer playing a role in supporting the University’s athletic teams. In fact, as Director of Athletic Medicine, Dr. Sebastianelli remains the doctor in charge of the University’s entire medical program for intercollegiate athletics.”

A general statement released by the university begins by claiming that “[t]he article fundamentally distorts the facts,” including the very premise of the article.

“There has been no change in the model of medical care for our student athletes. The allegations on why the change in team physician was made is ludicrous. Worst of all, the article ignores the fact that Dr. Sebastianelli remains the doctor in charge of the University’s entire medical program for intercollegiate athletics, including football. In addition, the university athletic trainer reported directly to Dr. Sebastianelli, who supervised the trainer’s work. A review shows Penn State’s medical coverage is on par with, or exceeds, peer institutions.”

To show just how their medical coverage compares to other institutions, Penn State sent out yet another press release titled “Football Physician In-Season Coverage” in which the medical coverage of other major FBS football programs is compared to the system in place at Penn State:

Penn State
- Primary care physician attends all practices and games. On Sunday, examines every player who played in the game previous day and any others in need of attention.
- Orthopedic physician attends at least one practice each week (Wed.) and all games. Available post-practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday if necessary. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Iowa
- Primary care physician is available to attend practice and see players post-practice Monday-Friday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
- Orthopedic physician is available post-practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

LSU
- Primary care physician available post-practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
- Orthopedic physician available post-practice Tuesday and Wednesday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Michigan State
- Primary care physician is available to attend practice and see players post-practice Monday-Friday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
- Orthopedic physician is available post-practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Northwestern
- Primary care physician is available to attend practice and see players post-practice Monday-Friday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
- Orthopedic physician is available post-practice once or twice a week. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Nebraska
- Primary care physician is available to attend practice and see players post-practice Monday-Friday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.
- Orthopedic physician is available post-practice Tuesday and Wednesday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players.

Ohio State
- A primary care physician is available to see players early a.m. Monday-Friday and post-practice on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, the physician is available to examine all players. Attends all games.
- An Orthopedic physician is available to see players post-practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Sunday, is available to examine all players. Attends all games.
- At least one of the three team physicians attends practice or a part of practice every day and sees players at the conclusion of each practice as needed for new injuries or follow-up care.

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10 Responses to “Penn State ramps up defense of medical care”
  1. eagles512 says: May 15, 2013 5:46 PM

    Sounds like a bitter former doctor out to get the university

  2. jimbo75025 says: May 15, 2013 5:53 PM

    I don’t get it? Basic difference I see is PSU has a doctor there vs on call? Personally, I have no real issues with that as this is major college football and not basket weaving.

  3. billobrienschindimple says: May 15, 2013 6:24 PM

    The author of the SI piece has an axe to grind with current AD Joyner. I don’t know the specifics, but I know this is not the first time this author has gone after Joyner.

  4. dietrich43 says: May 15, 2013 7:05 PM

    Why did O’Brien recommend they change physicians?

  5. alligatorsnapper says: May 15, 2013 8:43 PM

    Is this a personal vendetta against Penn State and AD Joyner by someone who has an axe to grind?

    This just doesn’t look right, nor smell right.

  6. noaxetogrind says: May 15, 2013 9:53 PM

    On first blush my initial reaction was this is a hatchet job by somebody with a vendetta. However, as deitrich already asked, why did O’Brien recommend a change in team physicians. I have been involved with both major college and NFL teams and I have never been with a head coach who actually asked that the team doctor be changed. I see O’Brien is kind of ducking the issue by saying he merely recommended the change but his superiors made the call. Now that it is a big story I imagine we will get our answer soon enough.

  7. ninerfan81 says: May 16, 2013 9:04 AM

    This is a NON story at any other school. Of the 100 plus Division I programs, I’d imagine medical personnel changes pretty regularly. If any of you idiots have ever been to Beaver Stadium you’d see that Mt.Nittany Medical Center is a stone’s throw away and stand at the ready to immediately respond to any medical emergencies on the field for players or spectators. Get a grip, this is a story about the good ol doc losing his status job and going after Joyner.

  8. noaxetogrind says: May 16, 2013 9:21 AM

    ninerfan81, I realize that anyone who may question the rationale for this move is an “idiot” in your eyes so hopefully you will just humor the masses. However your post offers no relevant information as it relates to this particular story. Nobody posting here made any comment as to the quality or lack thereof of PSU’s medical treatment. The geographical positioning of their medical center is so irrelevant that it is nonsensical. The point is that PSU just went thru a national scandal and the prevailing thought was that the Sandusky culture survived so long because football was so powerful that nobody wanted to upset the apple cart. The SI piece is now saying that little has changed and as evidence of that they point to what appears to be the head football coach having enough clout to have a change made in the medical staff. I/we are not affirming or denying the veracity of the SI post, we just find it kind of interesting that a head coach would get involved in such a decision. There are changes made in medical staffs at other schools, but very rarely at the behest of the FOOTBALL COACH. So with that said, please forgive all of us “idiots”. Maybe this is about a “good ol doc” losing his job status, but the prevailing question is why did he lose his status? FOOTBALL COACHES shouldn’t be involved in medical decisions. For such a smart guy you don’t seem to have much in the way of deductive thinking skills.

  9. ninerfan81 says: May 16, 2013 3:05 PM

    The question here is NOT whether someone lost their job, get over it, its whether or NOT these kids are getting the best health care possible. This article seems to insenuate that by releasing the good ol doc that Penn State somehow is deliberately putting the kids in harms way. NOT THE CASE. I couldnt care less if someone is fired as long as the healthcare for the football players remain uncomprimised. So yes, you might argue “cover up” again but to think these kids are not getting better healthcare than you and I ever will is ignorance, or idiocy, call it what you’d like.

  10. ninerfan81 says: May 16, 2013 3:22 PM

    In plain English, O’Brien said that Sebastianelli is still the face of PSU Sports Medicine and in the event of injury will still consult with those closer to the field on how to best treat players…someone’s feelings were hurt in an arugment (doc’s) and some writer with an agenda publishes this inflammatory piece questioning the quality of our healthcare, pathetic. Now we have the conspiracy theorists out in full force. Parents are in and out of that treatment facility hand in hand with their kids all the time, with constant feedback on the health of their young men. You’re crazy if you think O’Brien had anything to do with his dismissal, cry foul because Joyner kicked him out but dont use that “power of football” at PSU garbage AND accuse us of not protecting our guys.

    *When asked to describe his relationship with Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, PSU’s former team surgeon, head coach Bill O’Brien was quick to point out that Sebastianelli is still Penn State’s director of sports medicine. Joe Hermitt, PennLive.com*

    “I believe that there was no problem with the medical care last year, 20 years ago or now,” O’Brien said.

    “I believe that there was no problem with the medical care. I said that, I said that over and over again to my bosses, OK? What I tried to do is assemble the right team that believes in the same things. … I make those observations, I make those recommendations.

    “At the end of the day, I think what needs to be said here, too, is Wayne Sebastianelli is still the head of Penn State sports medicine. He’s in charge of Penn State sports medicine.”

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