Published on October 22, 2018

Punching Out Progression of Parkinson’s

Rock Steady Boxing with Genesis

The idea that boxing training could slow progression of Parkinson’s disease sounds incompatible with what is now understood about repetitive brain trauma.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali struggled for decades with Parkinson’s before he passed away. The repeated jolts to his brain from punches were considered a contributing factor in his condition. It is now believed hockey and football athletes are also at higher risk of Parkinson’s because of repetitive brain trauma from contact.

There is evidence linking traumatic brain injury to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which closely resembles Lou Gehrig Disease.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2016 published results of a study suggesting that people who reported head injuries had a 3.5-fold higher chance of developing Parkinson’s than those who did not.

But without the actual striking, what if the training regimen of boxing could slow progression of Parkinson’s? Boxers drill for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork and overall strength to defend themselves against punches coming their way. All of those training skills could possibly benefit Parkinson’s patients.

Rock Steady Boxing, a non-profit based in Indianapolis, is helping Parkinson’s patients all over the world fight back against their condition using the non-contact basics of boxing training.

Rock Steady Boxing Partners with GenesisGenesis Physical Therapy will become one of the newest Rock Steady affiliates starting Nov. 5.

“We are excited about the opportunity to join a world-wide network of gyms where Parkinson’s patients are trained by certified coaches,’’ said Kristin Hawley, PT, who is trained to guide Rock Steady classes. “The most exciting aspect of being affiliated with Rock Steady is what the affiliation will mean to Parkinson’s patients in the region.

“Parkinson’s is a progressive neuromuscular disorder, but the skills and movements of Rock Steady boxers may be able to delay progression and add quality of life for these patients.’’

Rock Steady Boxing was founded by Marion County Indiana Prosecutor Scott Newman, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 39 years old. A friend, who was also an attorney and a Golden Gloves boxer, offered to train him in boxing to keep him moving and combat his symptoms. When they noticed benefits, the idea was expanded to help others with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s Numbers Rising

“When evidence began to emerge that our program had a very positive impact, our mission became clear; we needed to share our knowledge and experience with others who have Parkinson’s,’’ said Joyce Johnson, executive director of Rock Steady Boxing, Inc.

The number of Parkinson’s patients in the U.S. and in the region is growing. It is estimated that as many as 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease. By 2040, it is estimated the number will double.

At a time when there is no cure, improving quality of life is a goal of Rock Steady Boxing.

Genesis classes will be held Mondays and Wednesday from 11:30 to 1 p.m. at Genesis Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, located at the TBK Bank Sports Complex, 4850 BettPlex Drive, Bettendorf.

The exercise program includes stretching, bicycling, running, jumping rope, push-ups, balancing drills and lots of punching motions and bag punching.

Health Assessment

Rock Steady Boxing at Genesis Physical TherapyPrior to the boxing workouts, participants will undergo an assessment process to identify Parkinson’s symptoms specific to the individual. The assessment will provide a baseline of data so improvements can be measured. Heart conditions, joint replacements and diabetes and other conditions will be addressed to assist in developing individual plans for participants.

The one-time assessment fee will be $100, which includes the boxing gloves and hand wraps necessary to participate, and a Rock Steady Boxing shirt. The monthly fee for classes is $75.

“There is increasing medical evidence that exercise can be a factor in preventing disease and slowing progression of disease. There are also additional benefits like socializing with others, improved mood, stabilization of cognitive function and general feelings of well-being,’’ Hawley said. “We also believe participants will have a lot of fun.’’

To register for Rock Steady Boxing or for further information, call 563 421-3460.

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