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Former PSU Doctor Claims James Franklin Interfered with Medical Decisions

Penn State head Coach James Franklin
Photo by Jordan Leneberg, Nittany Sports Now: James Franklin

A former Penn State football doctor has claimed that coach James Franklin has tried to interfere with the decision making of team trainers and doctors.

The doctor is Pete Seidenberg and, Seidenberg’s testimony was part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of another doctor, Scott Lynch, who claims that Penn State athletics fired him after multiple disputes between him and Franklin.

That lawsuit was filed in August 2019 and a mistrial was declared this past March.

The most eye-opening part of Seidenberg’s testimony involves a player who tried to take his own life.

“Thankfully someone stopped him,” Seidenberg said.

Per the testimony, a player was still being treated in short-term psychiatric care when Franklin and then-athletic director Sandy Barbour wanted him to be medically disqualified from the team. The player was not named in Dauphin County Court.

Seidenberg testified that disqualifying the player would have led to the player losing his scholarship, opening up a space for Franklin to offer to another player during the offseason ahead. Seidenberg said he and Lynch rejected the request, and Seidenberg likened it to doing the same to a player who had torn his ACL before getting surgery to repair it.

This wasn’t the only incident Seidenberg detailed at the witness stand. He claimed Franklin put pressure on him, Lynch and Penn State’s chief athletic trainer to make changes to their medical decision-making, along with options and treatment advice given to Penn State’s players.

“I perceived that as his attempt to influence medical decisions,” Seidenberg testified.

Penn State head Coach James Franklin

Penn State head coach James Franklin. — Matt Lynch / Nittany Sports Now

Seidenberg was Penn State’s primary care team physician during the early part of Franklin’s tenure. He’s no longer with the program and currently practices outside of Pennsylvania.

“Coach was trying to get us release the athlete for return to play,” the doctor testified, via Penn Live. “We were being pressured to release the athlete. There was a discussion. Coach was trying to influence medical decisions. …

“There was pressure to get people out of the baby blues and pressure to do it quickly.”

Seidenberg also testified about a Friday night meeting with Franklin, the medical staff and other Penn State football and athletic department officials at the Penn Stater Hotel before a Saturday game. Per the testimony, Franklin was hoping for a key player to be cleared. Ultimately, per the testimony, Seidenberg and Lynch didn’t agree with Franklin and the player wasn’t cleared. Seidenberg testified that this didn’t go over well with the head coach.

“He was angry,” Seidenberg said. “He was angry at our decision.”

RELATED: PENN STATE QB INJURY ADDRESSED BY JAMES FRANKLIN

Seidenberg said that in another situation where the medical staff went against Franklin, the coach “got up from the conference table abruptly and went back behind his desk. The meeting was over.”

Seidenberg also testified that he felt Franklin encouraged players to play hurt, citing a case where a player was applauded for doing so in the 2019 Citrus Bowl against Kentucky. Per Seidenberg, Franklin even pitched borrowing one of Michigan’s locker room signs. The sign, which was introduced before the court, read “the unmotivated player, the out-of-shape player, the hurt player, and the bad player all look the same.”

Seidenberg testified that he emailed Lynch and Penn State’s head trainer and wrote, “I am concerned that he felt the need to share this with us.”

“This encourages hurt players to hide their injuries and not report them to the medical team,” Seidenberg added on the stand.

Lynch claims that he reported interference from Franklin to Penn State Athletics and Penn State Health. Among those he reported it to is Dr. Kevin Black, who was his immediate supervisor and is now also being sued by Lynch. Lynch is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. The defense claims there is no evidence Lynch changed the way he treated players due to pressure from Franklin or anybody else.

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