For some Parkinson’s patients, boxing can be treated
For Cheryl Karian, a 72-year-old retired medical assistant, boxing is a panacea. Ms. Karian, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2020, doesn’t compete or fight, but every Tuesday and Thursday she trains for an hour at Main Street Boxing and Muay Thai in downtown Houston.
Before her diagnosis, Ms. Karian ran, played tennis and worked a demanding job caring for patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center. All of this changed in the years leading up to her diagnosis in 2020, when she began experiencing cognitive difficulties and frequent falls. “I can’t do what I used to do,” Ms. Karian said the day after the boxing class.
Along with two other class participants, Ms. Karian punched the ball, or thin air, under the direction of professional boxer Austin Trout, known as No Doubt Trout. It’s part of the Rock Steady Boxing program, which specializes in contactless boxing training for Parkinson’s patients.
When Mr. Trout called out the instructions – “One, two! One, two, slide! “- Miss Karian throws out various punches, dodges and head-rolls, all maintaining the wide-leg stance of a boxer.
Contactless boxing training has become more popular over the past decade or so, with 4,000 new gyms appeared before the pandemic hit and beyond five million Americans wear gloves in 2020, even in water loss of interest in professional boxing. Boxing’s varied and intense workouts provide a combination of strength and cardiovascular conditioning that improves agility, coordination and balanceand may be especially beneficial for people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s is caused by a chronic deficiency of dopamine, which causes increased muscle stiffness, tremors, difficulty speaking, fatigue, dizziness, and loss of coordination and balance. The patient’s movements are usually very slow and small. Falls are a big problem, especially as symptoms progress. And while there’s no cure or even a way to stave off symptoms, contactless boxing training seems to offer a way to slow the effects and improve a patient’s confidence.
“If you train for boxing, you’ll see better coordination, more agility, better balance,” says Trout, a former lightweight world champion who taught Rock Steady. “This is a physical way to fight Parkinson’s disease.”
A counterintuitive idea
Rock Steady Boxing was founded in 2006 by Scott Newman, a prosecutor in Marion County, Ind., who discovered that boxing training helped him manage symptoms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease . Initially, it was just him and five other patients who trained with a former professional boxer, Kristy Follmar.
The weirdness of boxing therapy hasn’t gone away for them – the sport is among the top sports concussion rate and traumatic brain injury. Although it is not clear that lifelong concussion can cause Parkinson’s disease, it can increased risk. Muhammad Ali, one of the sport’s most iconic figures, condition development After a professional career he was famous for knocking down the toughest heavyweights of his time by throwing punch after punch.
In Rock Steady’s classes, participants do not perform punches; they just throw them. Ryan Cotton, chief scientific officer of Rock Steady Boxing, said that in the early days Mr. Newman and Ms. Follmar worked by hunch. At the time, Parkinson’s experts recommended focusing on mobility and balance while avoiding overexertion. A boxer’s wide-legged stance and shifting center of gravity when punching seem to be ideal for training balance and posture.
Dr Cotton said: “There is a theory that this will work, but there is no scientific evidence. “Really, science has caught up with us and now supports a lot of the things that we are integrating.”
In the years since, research has shown that many forms of High intensity exerciseand especially boxing, maybe slow down of Parkinson’s symptoms. Boxing also seems to help with other neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and stroke.
Rock Steady has grown to over 850 affiliate programs in 17 countries, with training and certification programs for coaches like Mr. Trout, who wanted to provide special training for people with Parkinson’s disease with varying degrees of symptom severity.
When Ms. Karian’s condition was diagnosed, she knew what her future would look like if she didn’t take the initiative. She watched her mother, who also has Parkinson’s disease, for years as her quality of life declined. But she has discovered that boxing helps her with balance, coordination, and mental activity. “I will do as much as I can, as long as I can,” said Ms. Karian
About half of Parkinson’s patients will have a fall in a given year, most of these people more than once. Mr. Trout, like many other boxing trainers, trains his players on how to keep a steady posture while keeping their hands on their faces and their arms closed to protect their bodies and faces. .
“This is a training session,” said Ben Fung, a physical therapist in San Diego who specializes in helping patients, including those with Parkinson’s, avoid falls and has knowledge of mixed martial arts. Special training to prevent falls.
Many falls happen when a person is reaching for something or changing direction or velocity. Learning a boxer’s stance can help with balance, and props up your arms can protect your body and face from injury in the event of a fall.
Participants practice falling as part of the Rock Steady program. Dr Cotton, whose father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years after he began working with Rock Steady, said: “It is more common to lie on the floor than not in people with Parkinson’s. “Our fighters are still falling, it’s just that they’re not paralyzed with fear.”
Less fear can mean fewer falls. “One of the biggest factors determining whether someone is at risk of falling is if they are afraid of falling,” said Rebecca Martin, professor of physical therapy at the University of Hanover. Dr. Martin is not affiliated with Rock Steady Boxing, but finding it effective has led her to incorporate boxing techniques into her work, including weekly exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s disease. .
One Recent research on boxing therapy found that Parkinson’s patients who underwent twice-weekly exercise reported fewer falls, with falls increasing during the Covid-19 lockdown and decreasing again once restrictions were put in place. removed and they can continue to practice. This is something Mr. Trout has seen first-hand, as many of his participants – or “boxers”, as he calls them – have returned from lockdowns harder and more shaky than before.
Outside the arena
Parkinson’s disease also affects psychology. As patients lose coordination and balance, many begin to speculate about their abilities and fall into a shell, withdrawing from friends and family, and limiting trips outside the home. for fear of falling.
Ms. Karian said: “Parkinson takes away your confidence. “You have to work to maintain it.”
In one Recent survey with more than 1,700 people with Parkinson’s disease, nearly three-quarters of Rock Steady Boxing participants reported that the program improved their social lives, and more than half said the program improved fatigue, fear of falling, depression and anxiety.
“Parkinson’s disease is not just a condition that affects motor symptoms, such as the way you move, walk, and talk. Danielle Larson, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and one of the researchers who conducted the survey, said Parkinson’s can also affect people’s moods, making them feel lonely or isolated. . She’s also not affiliated with Rock Steady, but said she now often recommends boxing to her patients.
For some of Mr. Trout, the boxing class is usually the only time they’re out of the house each week. Kathy Smith, a retired teacher, says she often feels self-conscious about her abilities in exercise classes. In Rock Steady Boxing, “they understood, and they helped us tailor our different abilities,” she says.
When Mr. Trout’s class ended, with a major round of assignments, Ms. Karian and the others remained silent, concentrating on doing the best they could, while Mr. Trout encouraged them. Coping with the effects of Parkinson’s disease can be difficult, he said, but “they have a chance to fight every time they come to my class.”