By Harry Allison
A former Penn State team doctor has filed a lawsuit in Dauphin County Court alleging that football coach James Franklin tried to pressure him to clear injured players to return to the field.
The lawsuit also alleges that after the plaintiff, Dr. Scott A. Lynch, reported Franklin’s actions to various Penn State department heads, he was removed from two positions he held on the athletic department’s medical staff.
The lawsuit lists Penn State, Franklin, athletic director Sandy Barbour and Penn State Health – among others – as the defendants.
“In February 2019, Penn State Health administrators decided to change leadership for athletic medicine and the delivery of care for Intercollegiate Athletics,” Penn State Health said in a statement emailed to USA TODAY Sports. “This transition was completed with the best interests of student-athletes in mind, given the increasing complexity and growing demands of sports medicine, as well as health care in general. While we reject Dr. Lynch’s claims and will vigorously defend our program and its representatives, we remain grateful to him for his five years as director of athletic medicine for Intercollegiate Athletics and for his continued association with Penn State Health.”
Lynch is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, alleging that the school violated his rights under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law.
In the suit, Lynch alleges that Franklin “created a culture and climate which, at a minimum, obstructed full compliance with the aforementioned standards and rules implemented to safeguard the medical management of student athletes.”
Lynch also alleges that “on multiple and repeated occasions, defendant James Franklin attempted to interfere with the plaintiff’s autonomous authority to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions related to student-athletes.”
The lawsuit does not offer any specific examples of these allegations, but it claims that Lynch “refused to relent to the attempts of defendant James Franklin to influence and interfere with the plaintiff’s medical management.”
According to the lawsuit, Lynch was appointed as the team orthopedic physician for the Penn State Football team in February 2013, and, later was named as the director of athletic medicine in August 2014.
The lawsuit alleges that Lynch was removed from his posts in March 2019, claiming that it “arose as a result of the plaintiff’s good faith reporting of defendant James Franklin’s attempts to influence and interfere” Lynch’s medical opinion when injured players should return to the field.