The Public Schools of Robeson County and Southeastern Health Sports Medicine are working in a collaborative effort to provide certified athletic trainers for all six high schools, said Jeffrey Fipps, Robeson County athletic director.
Before athletic trainers were employed, first responders were responsible for assessing and treating injuries, Fipps said. The first responders were required only to obtain first aid and CPR certification. A certified athletic trainer obtains a college degree in sports medicine and is required to pass the national BOC exam before being licensed.
“Many of our surrounding counties are only able to provide first responders for their students,” Fipps said. “Robeson County is at the forefront in the state of North Carolina when it comes to employing athletic trainers.”
Having athletic trainers on campus for practices and athletic contests allows our student-athletes to receive the best possible care in the event of injuries, he said. A major issue in athletics is the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of concussions. Because of new research and the awareness of concussions, parents are concerned for the health of their children.
“The employment of athletic trainers helps to alleviate parental concern as well as provide ongoing care to our athletes,” Fipps said. “Southeastern Health athletic trainers are taught to recognize, evaluate and treat concussions. No concussion can be prevented, but research has shown that proper diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further dangerous health risks. As an administrator, it is very reassuring to know that our student-athletes are receiving the best possible injury assessment and treatment.”
Heather Cook, BS, LAT, ATC, Fairmont High School:
Heather Cook joined the United States Air Force in 1990. She served as a surgical technician for 12 years and then served the last eight years working in Air Force Recruiting. Cook retired from the USAF in 2010 and enrolled at Methodist University that fall. Cook was accepted into Methodist University’s Athletic Training Program in 2011 and later graduated in December 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. She is the certified athletic trainer at Fairmont High and also a preceptor for students in the Athletic Training Program at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Cook has been a member of the Southeastern Health Sports Medicine team since August 2014.
Michael Baker, athletic director, said the following of Cook.
“I have been coaching sports for 33 years and through my experience, Southeastern Health’s Athletic Training Program proves to be exceptional. Mrs. Cook is always punctual and goes above and beyond the call of duty. She is willing to assist the athletes and is diligent in preparing for their games or events. Her main objective is to maintain the health and safety of each athlete and student. She has a vast knowledge of all sports and encourages the students to eat healthy and acknowledge their physical limitations. She is presently mentoring students from UNCP to complete their studies in athletic training. I completely trust her decisions concerning a student’s participation in an event. We are truly blessed to have her as a part of our staff at Fairmont High School.”
Matt Ferrell, MS, LAT, ATC, Lumberton High School:
Matt Ferrell is a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University and a 2002 graduate of Michigan State University. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in athletic training. Ferrell has experience working with high school and collegiate athletics. He also did internships with Disney Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, and with the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. Ferrell became board certified in 2000 and this is his 17th year as an athletic trainer. He also was a student trainer in high school, which gives him more than 20 plus of experience in sports medicine. Ferrell is the certified athletic trainer at Lumberton High School and has been a member of the Southeastern Health Sports Medicine team since 2011.
Mackie Register, athletic director, said the following of Ferrell.
“I believe Matt has had a great impact on the LHS community over his six years. He walks onto the Lumberton campus every day prepared to do everything that he can to help take care of our athletes. He does a great job in working with our athletes to prepare them before the season, helps them through their injuries, and then preparing them to return to their sport. I have seen Matt go above and beyond many of times to take care of our injured athletes. But his impact does not stop there. He works very well with our parents in trying to get the best information to them about their child’s injuries. And as Matt tells our parents, “If I can’t figure out how to help your child, I’ll find someone who can!” He helps our coaching staff immensely throughout the school year and even helps them when they are injured. I think an example of an impact Matt has had on our community can be found in our ex-athletes, when they come back to visit or watch an event many times one of their stops is always to Matt’s room to say hi! Matt has been there for our LHS community through thick and thin and I can’t say enough good things about having him as our athletic trainer.”
Brendon Jonsson, MS, LAT, ATC, Red Springs High School:
Brendon Jonsson is a 2011 graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and a 2013 graduate of California University of Pennsylvania. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in athletic training. Jonsson has experience working with high school and collegiate athletics. He is the certified athletic trainer for Red Springs High School and also a preceptor for students in the Athletic Training Program at UNCP. Jonsson has been a member of the Southeastern Health Sports Medicine team since 2013.
Katasha Oxendine, Red Springs parent, said the following of Jonsson.
“Brendon is an exceptional athletic trainer. I don’t say this lightly. My daughter has been under Brendon’s care since her ninth-grade year and now she is a junior. My daughter has torn her ACL twice. He had listened to my sad stories, watched us cry and even comforted us through all the pain. He was there every step of the way with both operations. If I had any concerns or questions, he was always a text or call away without complaints. If I needed information from the doctor, he always found out for us. I’ve never heard him complain once about helping anyone. He treats all the children like his own. He works hard to make sure all student-athletes are fully recovered before they return to play. My daughter confides in him with her injuries. She trusts his expertise. He tells her the truth about any situation, he doesn’t lie. Brendon is a great example of a great athletic trainer. He is passionate about his job and doesn’t take his position for granted. He always goes above and beyond at all times. He is greatly appreciated and my family thanks him!”
Naomi Chang, MS, LAT, ATC, EMT-B, South Robeson High School:
Naomi Chang is a 2005 graduate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a 2008 graduate of California University of Pennsylvania. She received her undergraduate degree in exercise and sports science — athletic training and her graduate degree in exercise science and health promotions. Chang has been licensed and board certified since May 2005. She has experience working with high school and collegiate athletics, clinical experience working in a physical therapy office, and some industrial setting experience. She is the certified athletic trainer at South Robeson High School. Chang has been a member of the Southeastern Health Sports Medicine team since August 2016.
Donnie Carter, athletic director, said the following of Chang.
“Ms. Chang is a professional in everything she does. She cares about our athletes and is concerned with helping them prevent injuries as well as treating the injuries that do occur. To help our student-athletes maintain their health and safety is her major concern. She discusses the importance of proper nutrition, conditioning, and stretching with our athletes. She is a major resource for our entire athletic staff. South Robeson is fortunate that she is a member of our athletic staff.”
Chris Green, BS, LAT, ATC, St. Pauls High School:
Chris Green is a 1991 graduate of SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in physical education/exercise physiology. Green went on to graduate from Campbell University, where he received his degree in athletic training in 2003. Green has been a licensed and board certified athletic trainer for the past 14 years. He also was a licensed teacher and taught for 10 years in Cumberland County before joining the sports medicine team at Southeastern Health in 2013. Green is the certified athletic trainer for St. Pauls High School and also a preceptor for students in the Athletic Training Program at UNCP.
Jason Suggs, St. Pauls principal, said the following of Green.
“Athletic trainers such as Chris Green here at St. Pauls High are more than just someone to tape an ankle. They provide much more. Coach Green is a vital part of our staff. Chris Green oversees the general care of all of our student-athletes. He begins the daily routine of injury rehabilitation, injury evaluations, protective taping, practice preparation, monitoring environmental conditions such as heat and humidity, consulting with physicians, checking the status of weather conditions, conducting concussion follow-up and honoring return-to-play protocols. This occurs every day from the sound of the last bell until the first half-hour of practice has been completed. He then coordinates care with teachers and administrative staff for not only concussion return-to-play protocols but return-to-learn as well. While no athletic trainer can prevent all injuries, he goes above and beyond to take preventive measures to keep our student-athletes safe. When the worst evidently happens and an injury takes place, he provides referrals to physicians in a timely manner to assist the family with immediate care. He also assists with our emergency action plans, and handles our medical documentation. This allows our coaches to coach, our teachers to teach and keeps the school out of many liability situations.”
Michael Musselwhite, MA, LAT, ATC, Purnell Swett High School:
Michael Musselwhite is a 2014 and 2016 graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, obtaining his undergraduate degree in athletic training and his master’s degree in sports administration. Musselwhite has experience working with high school and collegiate athletes. He is now the certified athletic trainer for Purnell Swett High School, and also serves as a preceptor for undergraduate students in the Athletic Training Program at UNCP. Musselwhite is one of our unique cases of a graduate of a high school in Robeson County going to UNCP for his athletic training degree. Musselwhite is the only athletic trainer on staff that can say he did an internship as a student and now is the certified athletic trainer there. Musselwhite is a living testament of what our program brings and can offer. He has been a member of Southeastern Sports Medicine team since 2016.
Jerome Hunt, athletic director, said the following of Musselwhite.
“The athletic staff at Purnell Swett High School is very thankful to have Michael Musselwhite as our athletic trainer. Having been a former athlete himself, Michael understands the rigor that athletes are put through on a daily basis during practice and games and how important it is to get them back on the field after an injury. We feel he is great at communicating with our coaches, players and parents after an injury has occurred and the manner in which he will treat the injury and a timeline for their return to play. Michael also demonstrates a commitment to serving our student-athletes in the most professional and nurturing manner. Michael always puts our student athletes first and we look forward to a continued relationship with him for years to come.”
Sashah T. Davis, MA, LAT, Southeastern Health Athletic Training coordinator:
Sashah Davis is a 2006 graduate of Winthrop University and a 2008 graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She received her undergraduate degree in athletic training and her graduate degree in sports administration. Davis has experience working with high school and collegiate athletics, and clinical experience working as a physical therapy aide. She is the athletic trainer for the Florence Redwolves, an amateur baseball team, and the Florence Phantoms, a semi-professional arena football team. She was the certified athletic trainer for Purnell Swett High School and also a preceptor for students in the Athletic Training Program at UNCP from 2011 to 2016 until she was promoted to working at Southeastern Orthopedics as a liaison between Orthopedics and Robeson County athletics. As the athletic training coordinator/clinical athletic trainer, Davis is responsible for caring for the general population of Robeson County residents and expediting the care of student athletes of Robeson County to the clinic back to the playing fields. Davis has been a member of the Southeastern Health Sports Medicine team since 2011.
Dr. Eric Breitbart, Southeastern Orthopedics, said the following of Davis.
“It has been a pleasure having Sashah working in the office with me since she took on her new role this past summer. She demonstrated incredible leadership skills managing her fellow athletic trainers and developed a wide skill set, which is such an important asset to running my practice efficiently. She is my go-to person for everything related to athletes in the county and makes herself available for whatever the task is at hand. I look forward to continuing to work with her as part of my team for many years to come.”