Two tales of one athletic trainer

2013-05-27T17:30:00Z 2013-05-27T20:22:05Z Two tales of one athletic trainerJohn Doherty Times Correspondent
May 27, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

For athletic trainer Tim Bream, it is most certainly the best of times and the worst of times.

Bream had been the head athletic trainer for the Bears for 15 years up until February of last year when he left for the same position with Penn State.

At the time, I initially wondered why Bream would ever leave the stability and prestige of the Bears for the hornets' nest Penn State had become. When I learned, however, that Bream had graduated from Penn State, the move made more sense.

More, but not total.

I had largely forgotten the move until this month when Bream was featured in the cover stories of two separate publications. Bream wrote one – about making a career change – in the medical journal Training & Conditioning. He most assuredly did not pen the piece which appeared in Sports Illustrated less than two weeks ago.

Authored by David Epstein, the story's introduction reads, “At a time when football safety has never been more scrutinized, changes in the university's once exemplary medical care belie promises to rein in the athletic department and operate transparently.”

Its target largely is athletic director Dr. David Joyner. Nonetheless, a good deal of the resultant shrapnel catches Bream.

The “Dr.” in front of Joyner's name, you see, is not indicative of the Ph.D. which is typical of so many college administrators. Joyner actually has an MD. He is an orthopaedic surgeon, who moved over from the school's board of trustees shortly after the Sandusky scandal broke and long-time head football coach Joe Paterno and athletic director Tim Curley were fired.

Not long after Joyner took the job, he and head football coach Bill O'Brien ousted head athletic trainer George Salvaterra, Ph.D., ATC, who had been at Penn State since 1985, and head team physician Wayne Sebastianelli, M.D., there since 1992. Joyner, Epstein reports, had applied for the same position in '92 and had a “contentious history” with Sebastianelli thereafter.

Although removed from the football team, Sebastianelli retained his title of “Director of Athletic Medicine,” still working with every team at Penn State except football.

Left unexplained by Epstein, or any other published story at the time it occurred, was why Salvaterra was entirely cashiered.

Regardless, Bream replaced him and, according to the article he authored, made a major change for the better. Prior to his arrival, student athletic trainers – male or female – had not been allowed to work with football. Now they are. Apparently, the prior staff had forgotten that Penn State was a school first. A student athletic trainer who doesn't get to work extensively with football – or hockey– doesn't get a complete education.

Bream, meanwhile, has been getting an education he probably never wanted. Epstein repeats previous accusations of unnamed sources that Bream was essentially practicing medicine without a license. The charges were serious enough for Penn State to investigate. Bream, according to Joyner, was exonerated.

Still, I can't help but wonder if it would have been a far far better thing for Bream to have stayed in Lake Forest and Soldier Field rather than going to what remains a very un-Happy Valley.

John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.

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