Penn State criticizes upcoming SI article about football medical program

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Penn State moved quickly Tuesday night to rebut a Sports Illustrated story that appeared to paint an unflattering portrait of the university’s medical operation. (Gene J. Puskar/AP file photo)

Penn State moved quickly Tuesday night to rebut a Sports Illustrated story that appeared to paint an unflattering portrait of the university’s medical operation as it applies to football.

The story, which is teased on the cover of this week’s edition of the magazine with the headline, “Do Athletics Still Have Too Much Power at Penn State?”, is expected to be released online Wednesday morning. It was not available Tuesday night on any web sites.

A statement issued by Penn State said: “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 are 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.”

Head football coach Bill O’Brien drew some criticism in February when he replaced Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, the head physician for the football program for 21 years. Dr. Peter Seidenberg took his place with Dr. Scott Lynch being named orthopedic consultant. Sebastianelli continues as the director of athletic medicine overseeing all sports medical services.

“From a coverage standpoint, we have exactly the same level of medical care as we had previously,” O’Brien said in a statement. “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.”

Athletic director Dave Joyner called Penn State’s medical care model “very consistent with peer institutions in the Big Ten and elsewhere” and called some statements in the SI story “baseless accusations.”

The university also confirmed that Tim Bream, whom O’Brien brought in last year as head athletic trainer, was investigated because of “questions and rumors” about him. An outside law firm “concluded there was no credible or substantial evidence to support the allegations or rumors,” the statement said.

The statement went on to say that no wrongdoing or violations of professional standards were found.

--Joe Juliano

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