Details of Sports Illustrated medical accusations against Penn State emerge

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien answers questions from the media following the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. (Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports)

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Bill O’Brien answers questions from the media following the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. He will be answering even more with Sports Illustrated’s recent investigation into his program. (Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports)

The Penn State athletic program is once again under fire. After the decision makers in Happy Valley cleaned house, even firing the legendary Joe Paterno, it was Bill O’Brien who was brought in to lead the football program, and David Joyner to lead the entire athletic department.

Now, in a comprehensive, 23-page investigation performed by Sports Illustrated’s David Epstein, both Joyner’s experience and O’Brien’s choices have been called into serious question.

The piece, entitled “Special Report: Do Athletics Still Have Too Much Power at Penn State?”, is set to be released on Wednesday. At first, details were scarce, to say the least, but Penn State believed whatever was in there was enough to release a preemptive statement.

Now, according to Ben Jones of, we know far more about what Epstein was reporting on, and it does not look good for Joyner.

Epstein wonders why Penn State named Joyner the school’s athletic director in the first place.

Joyner is the founder, Chairman and CEO of Joyner SportsMedicine. As an orthopedic physician, he developed 19 physical therapy centers in eight states to deliver state-of-the-art training and rehabilitation services honed by U.S. Olympic and Elite Medical Team experience and leadership.

However, he had never run an athletic department, and he cannot actually be physically out there on the field, tending to the medical needs of his student-athletes. Epstein is quick to point out what he and his sources are seeing as failures of care out of a man hired by Joyner and O’Brien, head trainer Tim Bream.

Epstein’s report takes into account the fact that Joyner and O’Brien decided to reassign Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, who had been the team’s physician for 21 years. The decision to remove Sebastianelli was made only days after Joyner was named the AD on a full-time basis after serving as the interim athletic director at first.

“Three sources saw Bream-who does not have a medical degree- giving players the anti-inflammatory drug Voltaren without a prescription or a physician’s approval. Two of those three also say Bream gave a player the prescription drug Bentyl for diarrhea, when the drug is actually meant to treat irritable bowel syndrome.”

“Sources saw Bream engaging in other procedures requiring special certification or a medical license. These include using an X-ray machine, administering an inhaler to a player who does not have asthma and lacing a boil on a player’s neck.”

Obviously, Penn State continued to deny any and all allegations concerning sub-par medical treatment.

“We did benchmarking with some peer institutions in February and of the responses we received back that I have seen, the level of physician coverage for Penn State football is equal to or above the coverage at Alabama, Ohio State, Illinois and LSU.” A University spokesperson said.

Joyner himself also made another statement.

“Care of our student-athletes is a top priority for Penn State, as it always has been. The present medical care model is very consistent with peer institutions in the Big Ten and elsewhere. The present system offers appropriate and exceptional medical care for our student-athletes.”It’s terribly unfortunate some want to make baseless accusations. We refuse to engage in a such a conversation. The vast majority of Penn Staters want the focus to be on our dedicated student-athletes, as it should be.”

Finally, O’Brien himself detailed his own decision-making process, and also explained who is actually providing medical care at both practice and during games.

“When I was hired as the Head Football Coach at Penn State, I was asked to observe areas of the football program and then make recommendations. After observing our medical organization in the football program for a full year, I recommended that it would be in the best interests of our program, and most importantly our student-athletes, to make a change in the team physicians. Dr. (Scott) Lynch and Dr. (Peter) Seidenberg were identified as excellent doctors who could serve in this role. Dr. Seidenberg will attend our practices and Dr. Lynch will be here on game day. From a coverage standpoint, we have exactly the same level of medical care as we had previously. The same surgeons as last year are available to players who would need that level of attention. Nothing about our level or quality of athlete care has changed. These young men mean a great deal to me and our staff. They give their all to Penn State. I will always recommend what I feel is best for our student-athletes in every area of the football program.”

Some within the Penn State community are already equating Epstein’s report to a witch hunt, while obviously Sports Illustrated is going to stand by their reporter. Still, more believe some were upset with the hiring of Joyner, and gave Epstein information that would paint the athletic director in a negative light.

Continue to check back in as this situation unfolds. If, in fact, Penn State has once again failed to put the best interests of their student-athletes first, Joyner could wind up paying with his job.

With Epstein’s integrity as a journalist is called into real question, well, he could be losing his.

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