Report Outlines Controversial Changes to Penn State's Football Medical Staff

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMay 15, 2013

Penn State once again finds itself in the midst of controversy following reports that the athletic department has made controversial changes to its medical staff recently, according to a recent Sports Illustrated report by David Epstein.


UPDATE: Wednesday, May 15 at 3:59 p.m. ET by Eric Ball

Head coach Bill O’Brien has responded to the SI report with a series of quotes. He defended his relationship with players (via Jeff Nelson of

O’Brien calls the allegations “way off base” (via ESPN Radio host Cory Giger):
The second-year head coach sums up how he feels (via Ben Jones of

---End update---

Many of the issues stem from the removal of Wayne Sebastianelli as director of athletic medicine at Penn State. Sebastianelli was also the orthopedic surgeon-head physician for the Nittany Lions' football team.

According to Epstein's report, new athletic director David Joyner is the focus of the Penn State community's concern and disappointment. Joyner had no previous athletic administrative experience before being hired as AD and reportedly had a testy history with Sebastianelli. 

In the report, current and former Penn State staff describe Joyner and Sebastianelli's relationship as a rivalry:

Multiple former players and staff members told SI that they recalled Joyner and Sebastianelli having heated words several years ago over whether Joyner was trying to lure football players away from the university medical system.

The report also states that Penn State football players were both surprised and confused to learn of Sebastianelli's departure. Trustee sources told Epstein that Joyner's reason for the changes to the medical staff was to cut costs.

Epstein goes on to report that head coach Bill O'Brien is content with the changes to the medical staff but that he has made recommendations since joining the program.  

The report also discusses issues involving athletic trainers taking part in medical practices usually reserved for doctors, including giving a player drugs without a proper prescription, via anonymous sources in Penn State athletics health care.

Penn State released the following statement in response to Epstein' report:

To characterize the medical care Penn State provides our student-athletes as anything other than the highest quality is erroneous. Access to urgent and quality care for our athletes is no less than where it was at any point in the past 20 years. We provided Sports Illustrated with facts and data that demonstrate our commitment to our student athletes and how we compare to other peer institutions. Instead, the article sensationalizes in order to insinuate lower standards and largely ignores statements from the Dean of the College of Medicine.

Contrary to the reporter's assertions, Dr. Sebastianelli remains the doctor in charge of the University's entire medical program for intercollegiate athletics, including football. Further, there has been no change in the support provided by State College-based Penn State orthopedic surgeons, including Dr. Sebastianelli.

Epstein's report is just the latest controversy for a school and an athletic program that has been rocked by scandal over the past 18 months. 


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