You know it must have been a particularly physical football game when the head coach tops the weekly injury list.
The news wasn’t good for Joe Paterno, who learned Sunday that he broke his left leg and suffered ligament damage to the left knee, all resulting from a violent collision on the sidelines during Penn State’s 13-3 loss at Wisconsin Saturday.
Penn State Director of Athletic Medicine Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, who examined Paterno Saturday night and Sunday morning, revealed the 79-year-old coach had a fracture of the top of his left shin bone as well as unspecified damage to the knee.
A decision on whether to operate or rehabilitate the injuries will be based upon what will be the most expedient manner of recovery, according to a university release. Doctors and team officials were considering whether surgery would help the leg heal faster, Guido D’Elia, director of communications for football, told the Associated Press.
“He wants to make the quickest fix,” D’Elia said.
The accident occurred on the third play of the third quarter. A pass play to Nittany Lions’ tight end Andrew Quarless near the visiting team’s sidelines ended up with the freshman flying into Paterno’s right leg, causing the coach to buckle. At the same time, the helmet or shoulder pads of Wisconsin linebacker DeAndre Levy slammed into Paterno’s left knee.
Quarless and defensive back Spencer Ridenhour were involved in a collision with Paterno during a practice session the week of the Northwestern game in late September.
Cuts to the coach’s left leg were treated on the Penn State bench and, after some coaxing by Sebastianelli, Paterno was carted off the field to the dressing room. He flew back to State College ahead of the team on the university’s private jet.
Paterno, according to the release, tried to maintain his normal routine on Sunday while working from home. He reviewed game films and spoke with his staff by speakerphone. No determination has been made about whether he could return to the sidelines for the Temple game or monitor his team from the coaches’ box above the stands.
Paterno’s son and quarterbacks coach, Jay, told the AP that he spoke with his father Sunday and there was “no thought whatsoever of not coming back this year. ... It’s not even in the discussion. There’s nothing more to read into this in terms of his career.”
Penn State (6-4) hosts the Owls at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium before concluding the regular season at home Nov. 18 against Michigan State. Barring the unforeseen, the Lions are almost certain to earn a spot in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., against the fourth-place team from the SEC.
On Sunday, someone bandaged the left leg on the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium. A sign placed there read, “Get well soon JoePa. We love you!”