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James Franklin, ex-Penn State doctor had strained relationship, per testimony in wrongful termination trial

Dr. Scott Lynch, a former orthopedic consultant and director of medicine for Penn State athletics, testified in front of Dauphin County Court over the weekend about a fractious relationship with Nittany Lions coach James Franklin that worsened from 2018-19, according to PennLive. Lynch is suing Dr. Kevin Black, who served as his supervisor at Penn State, and Penn State Health, though Franklin’s role has taken center stage during the trial’s proceedings. 

Lynch, who alleges that his termination followed a refusal to “allow a coach to interfere with his medical treatment and return to play decisions,” is one of two doctors to speak out against Franklin and his attempts to interfere with team medical experts. Dr. Pete Seidenberg, the primary care doctor for Penn State’s football team in 2014, claimed during the wrongful termination trial against the school that he was pushed by Franklin and athletic director Sandy Barbour to medically disqualify a player who attempted suicide in order to free up a scholarship.

Lynch’s testimony, which includes emails that he sent to Franklin expressing both his disapproval of the attempted interference and a desire to reconcile, sheds more light on Franklin’s role in the process. PennLive notes that Lynch went so far as to report Franklin’s interference to Penn State athletics and Penn State Health under Dr. Black. 

“Punishment” for missing treatment 

According to PennLive, a rash of players failed to show up for scheduled medical treatments in 2018. The problem became so severe that Franklin ruled players who didn’t show up for their appointments to be treated as full-go at practices. 

Lynch sent an email to Franklin that railed against what he called “punishment” and instead suggested that players could clean the team’s locker rooms. 

“Just because they don’t show up for treatment doesn’t mean they’re not injured,” Lynch testified. 

According to Lynch, Franklin did not receive the email well. In a follow-up, Lynch tried to schedule a meeting to smooth things over between the two but never received a reply. 

Impeding team doctors 

Lynch testified that he was instructed during a phone call with Franklin to abstain from using the term “lateral meniscus” when discussing knee injuries with players. Lynch responded that he wasn’t going to lie about issues that a player may face before the call was suddenly disconnected. Lynch attempted to call back but was told Franklin had left. 

Lynch also alleged that Franklin would get “angry” when certain players were listed as unavailable, or when Penn State’s injury list grew too long. Franklin also allegedly tried to prevent trainers from putting more tape on players’ ankles as it often covered the Nike logo on Penn State’s team shoes — an apparent violation of the university’s marketing deal with the apparel company, PennLive notes. 

Franklin’s “manipulation” brought to light 

Lynch was removed from his position on Jan. 28, 2019, after Franklin and Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour met with Black, according to testimony. Following his termination, Lynch met several times with Penn State Athletics integrity officer Robert Boland to discuss his tenure and relationship with Franklin. 

Lynch raised concerns over preserving “medical autonomy” from Franklin and his staff, particularly when it came to decisions surrounding player health. Lynch told Boland that Franklin would try to “manipulate” the situation to entice a favorable outcome in medical decisions with which he disagreed. 

According to Lynch, Boland shared his findings with Lynch and determined that the case was “in Lynch’s favor.” However, Boland never officially published his report. PennLive notes that Boland’s report is off limits during the trial, and that Boland has been barred from testifying about it. 

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