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Athletic Trainer at NASA Contributes to Space Mission

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Photo By Renee Fernandes National Athletic Trainers’ Association

Bruce Nieschwitz, ATC, LAT, has been a specialist for Astronaut Strength, Condition and Rehabilitation (ASCR), which supports the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), since 2006. ASCR is responsible in assisting with the overall physical health of the astronaut corps. This group supervises and administers the physical training of all crew members during their preassigned, preflight, inflight and postflight phases of spaceflight. In addition they manage all of the muscoskeletal issues of crew members, as needed. His group is part of the Space Medicine Operations Division, working under the authority of physicians within the division.

Describe your employment setting.

When I need to select a setting or choose from a drop down menu, I pick “Government/Military” when it is offered. Otherwise, I would select “Other.” I provide athletic training health care for a government contractor who has a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). I am an Athletic Trainer and Astronaut Strength, Conditioning and Rehabilitation specialist. I practice under NASA’s Space Medicine Operations Division, and the patients I care for are part of the United States Astronaut Corps.

What do you like about your position? What motivates you?

I enjoy practicing with high-performing and higher-level clientele, while at the same time interacting with them in a very normal and unassuming atmosphere. Astronauts are not superstar athletes, although they may have minor celebrity status now and then. But people are people, with similar ailments and problems. I enjoy the relationships with them, as I did with the high school athletes and coaches I have worked with in the past. I am motivated by being part of something as recognizable as NASA, and for the role I play in mission success. Even though my role is just a minor part of a huge conglomeration of efforts, I know that I contribute in a positive way.

Jsc2011e015227Describe the challenges and positive aspects of your role.

NASA is a giant government agency with plenty of bureaucracy. This can be challenging when trying to get things done. A positive aspect of my current role is that it is just as it was when I worked at a high school. It is a relaxed atmosphere and can still be fun.

What do you feel the impact, personally and professionally, has been on you in this role?

I no longer have a position requiring me to be at early morning treatment sessions and practices or get home late at night from an away event. My schedule at NASA is much better. But professionally speaking, I think I have become a more “wellrounded” Athletic Trainer because I now practice in this non-traditional role and have now experienced two very different employment settings.

What is your greatest achievement as an Athletic Trainer?

Getting NASA to hire me. I say that tongue in cheek but I never dreamed I would practice at NASA with astronauts and be able to take part in some of the cool things I’ve been able to do and see. I have been very blessed.

The article was originally published in the 2021 summer "Cert Update" newsletter.

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