How Did Muhammad Ali Get Parkinson’S Disease?

Ali’s story – Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson Disease (PD) could be, in part, attributed to boxing-related injuries. In the early days after his diagnosis, it was said that he began showing signs of PD after his retirement from boxing in 1981, ranging from tremors to slurred speech.

What causes Parkinson’s disease Muhammad Ali?

Ali and Parkinson’s – In the late 1970s, the public observed changes in Ali’s speed and speech. However, he wasn’t actually diagnosed with Parkinson’s until 1984 at the age of 42. The news came just three years after he formally retired from boxing. It’s generally speculated that Ali’s boxing career was linked to his development of Parkinson’s.

Does boxing cause Parkinson’s disease?

Head blows from boxing can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s. Can the same chronic brain injury also lead to Parkinson’s? – While one of the world’s leading neurologists was evaluating test results to determine what was ailing Muhammad Ali, the man closest to the situation was formulating his own diagnosis.

“I’ve been in the boxing ring for 30 years, and I’ve taken a lot of punches,” Ali said then, “so there is a great possibility something could be wrong.” Ali, 42 years old at the time in 1984 and three years into retirement from boxing, was experiencing tremors, slowness of movement, slurred speech and unexplained fatigue.

Neurologist Stanley Fahn, M.D., examined him at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and diagnosed parkinsonism, the umbrella term for movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease, The public announcement unleashed a flurry of questions: Had boxing really done this to the most graceful heavyweight champion of all time? More than two decades later, there’s still no way to determine whether boxing caused his Parkinson’s; Ali may have been fated to develop this disorder even if he had been a lawyer.

What is unequivocally true, however, is that professional boxing often damages the brain. Brain damage is as much an occupational hazard for boxers as black lung is for coal miners. The term “punch drunk” entered the medical lexicon in 1928 when pathologist Harrison Martland, M.D., first described this syndrome in the Journal of the American Medical Association,

“For some time,” he wrote, “fans and promoters have recognized a peculiar condition occurring among prizefighters which, in ring parlance, they speak of as ‘punch drunk.’ Fighters in whom the early symptoms are well recognized are said by the fans to be ‘cuckoo,’ ‘goofy,’ ‘cutting paper dolls,’ or ‘slug nutty.'” He estimated that half of all veteran professional boxers had the condition. The location of brain damage determines the type of symptoms: Alzheimer’s derives from the temporal lobe, Parkinson’s from the midbrain, and behavioral problems from the frontal lobe. Today experts use a variety of terms in lieu of punch-drunk syndrome: chronic traumatic brain injury, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, boxer’s encephalopathy and dementia pugilistica, which was coined as a medical term to describe the most severe cases.

  1. Dr. Martland realized 78 years ago that parkinsonism was another possible result.
  2. In severe cases,” he wrote, “there may develop a peculiar tilting of the head, a marked dragging of one or both legs, a staggering, propulsive gait with the facial characteristics of the parkinsonian syndrome, or a backward swaying of the body, tremors, vertigo, and deafness.” As with “dementia pugilistica,” the medical literature now also describes “pugilistic parkinsonism.” “There are not too many cases of pugilistic parkinsonism, but it is an official diagnosis,” says Dr.

Fahn, director of the Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Other Movement Disorders at Columbia University as well as past president of the American Academy of Neurology. “Very few cases have come to our attention, and not in any other high-profile boxers that I’m aware of.” Indeed, most victims of chronic traumatic brain injury suffer what looks more like Alzheimer’s disease than Parkinson’s.

There even appears to be a genetic link between Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injury. One common gene variation known as ApoE4, a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s, has been linked to an increase in the severity of brain damage experienced by boxers with more than 12 professional bouts. Such research suggests that some individuals may be genetically predisposed to suffer neurological damage from boxing, says neurologist Barry Jordan, M.D., director of the brain injury program at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, N.Y.

Chronic traumatic brain injury, Dr. Jordan says, results in three types of neurological symptoms:

Motor -In some boxers, slightly slurred speech is one of the earliest signs of brain damage. Other common impairments to the body’s motor systems include a lack of coordination, slow movements, a weakened voice, rigidity, poor coordination, poor balance, and tremors. Cognitive -In neurological tests, afflicted boxers often exhibit poor concentration, memory deficits and slowed mental speed. “As the disease process advances, the boxer may exhibit dementia exemplified by amnesia, profound attentional defects, prominent slowness of thought, and impaired judgment, reasoning, and planning,” Dr. Jordan has written.

Even the sweetest scientist, Sugar Ray Robinson, couldn’t escape the ravages of Alzheimers.

Behavioral -Chronic brain damage can also affect behavior. Common signs include irritability, a lack of insight, paranoia and violent outbursts.

In a 1969 British study that found one in six retired professional boxers suffered serious brain damage, symptoms began to appear an average of 16 years after a fighter’s career. Those who fought longer (beyond age 28) were at greater risk, as were those with a history of losing, especially by knockout.

It’s not clear exactly how “subconcussive” blows—those that don’t knock a fighter out—wreak their havoc, and especially how chronic damage continues to mount decades after a boxer leaves the ring. Joseph Friedman, M.D., professor of clinical neurosciences at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I., likens the brain to “a bowl of Jell-O contained in a rigid case.” “When you get hit,” he says, “you get vibrations going through there.

The vibrations bounce back, because of the skull. These displacements create ripples, basically, inside the brain.” These waves, in turn, are thought to tug and stretch nerve filaments and cells. “With each of these traumas, you are presumably disrupting the normal physiology of individual nerve cells,” Friedman says.

  1. Some of them may not recover.” Another possibility is that repeated blows to the head cause multiple tiny hemorrhages deep inside the brain, which are eventually replaced by lesions or scarring.
  2. A third theory holds that boxing substantially disrupts the chemistry of the brain, leading to an immune response that damages the central nervous system.

“The general thought is that some type of process is initiated during a boxing career that continues after a person stops boxing,” Dr. Jordan says. “Also, I suspect, the normal aging process is superimposed on the boxing—the loss of neurons due to aging.” The location of the damage determines a person’s symptoms.

Substantial damage of the substantia nigra, a portion of the midbrain, causes Parkinson-like symptoms involving muscle control. More often, diffuse damage to the temporal lobe of the cerebrum leads to symptoms that resemble Alzheimer’s. Damage to the frontal lobe would explain behavioral symptoms. Boxing is unique among sports in that injuring an opponent is an explicit goal: damaging the brain, via knockout, is by definition the pinnacle of accomplishment.

This central fact—and the brain damage to which it often leads—has prompted medical organizations around the world, including the American Academy of Neurology and the American Medical Association, to call for the abolition of boxing. In 1983, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association called the sport an “obscenity” that “should not be sanctioned by any civilized society.” Others, like Dr.

  1. Jordan, take a more pragmatic view, seeking to make boxing less dangerous.
  2. As chief medical officer of the New York State Athletic Commission until 1995, Dr.
  3. Jordan helped enact the strictest professional boxing rules in the world—with fighters required to undergo MRI brain scans annually.
  4. The commission bans those who lose six consecutive fights, or three in a row by knockout or technical knockout in which the referee stops the bout, from boxing in New York.

But that doesn’t address the core challenge. “The problem with chronic brain injury,” Dr. Jordan explains, “is that when boxers develop it, the horse is already out of the barn. If you could find preclinical markers, you could advise them to stop boxing.” Until then, chronic brain damage will remain an occupational hazard for boxers—even the greatest of them.

How was Muhammad Ali diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease?

Neurologists who treated Muhammad Ali provide evidence for primary Parkinson’s diagnosis | Emory University | Atlanta GA Neurologists who treated Muhammad Ali provide evidence for primary Parkinson’s diagnosis Oct.24, 2022 Media Contact Jennifer Johnson McEwen Among observers, questions long swirled about the extent to which Parkinson’s disease versus repeated hits to the head contributed to Muhammad Ali’s progressive tremor and cognitive impairment. Now, three neurologists who provided direct care to the boxing legend describe evidence in a new JAMA Neurology Viewpoint article supporting a primary diagnosis of young-onset Parkinson’s disease over a form of dementia from repetitive head trauma.

  1. In wishes expressed before his death at age 74 in June 2016, Ali declined an autopsy, so there was no post-mortem tissue diagnosis.
  2. But in the new article, published online Oct.24, physicians who treated Ali for more than 20 years at Emory University provide clear evidence to support a primary diagnosis of young-onset idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.

The team of Mahlon R. DeLong, MD, a professor emeritus of neurology at the and former neurologist;, chair of neurology at the University of Florida and executive director of the ; and Helen Mayberg, M.D., a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the at Mount Sinai, drew their conclusions from physical examinations and PET imaging from 1995 until Ali’s death.

This is the first time that a group of physicians who continuously evaluated him over the years has spoken on the record,” Okun said. “He’s such an important part of history, not just American history but world history, and he’s been so iconic and so influential. I think it’s important for people to understand what the actual facts of the medical condition were from the doctors who examined him.” In the new viewpoint piece, they write: “Here, we add this missing information to the archives of history.

The main point of our report is that Muhammad Ali indeed had young-onset levodopa-responsive Parkinson disease with an emergence during the mid-phase of his boxing career.” Among the details offered to support their conclusion:

Ali was clearly responsive to levodopa, the most commonly prescribed medication to treat Parkinson’s symptoms, as documented in examinations in the early 1980sAn FDG-PET scan in 1997 showed progressive bilateral striatal hyperactivity, a Parkinson’s-related patternAn F-DOPA PET scan in 1998 showed classical low striatal uptake, consistent with Parkinson’s and not traumatic brain injuryRepeated observations confirmed his prominent left-sided hand tremor, bradykinesia and rigidity all substantially improved when on medications, a key criterion for diagnosing idiopathic Parkinson’sAli developed classic late-stage symptoms of idiopathic Parkinson’s, including stooped posture, shuffling steps, postural instability and fallingSerial neuropsychological testing showed progressive frontal and memory impairments consistent with classical Parkinson’s

Ali’s case, the physicians wrote, “reinforces the dangers of the press, public and health care professionals in speculating on medical diagnoses in the absence of an in-person examination.” They concluded: “A 34-year chronic progressive presentation with asymmetric levodopa-responsive resting tremor, accompanied by other classical features, provides strong evidence for a diagnosis of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease,” they wrote. : Neurologists who treated Muhammad Ali provide evidence for primary Parkinson’s diagnosis | Emory University | Atlanta GA

Why do boxers develop Parkinson’s?

Abstract – Boxing is often believed to be a frequent cause for parkinsonism caused by chronic repetitive head injury, with Muhammad Ali frequently cited as an example. The purpose of this study is to determine the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease (PD) in retired Thai traditional boxers. Two standardized screening questionnaires were sent to all registered Thai traditional boxers. Subjects who screened positive for parkinsonism were invited for clinical examinations by two independent neurologists. Among 704 boxers (70%) who completed the questionnaires, 8 boxers (1.14%) had parkinsonism: 5 with PD, 1 with progressive supranuclear palsy and 2 with vascular parkinsonism. Boxers with PD were found to have an older mean age than those without PD (P = 0.003). The analysis of probable risk factors disclosed an association between the number of professional bouts (>100 times) and PD (P = 0.01). The crude prevalence of PD in Thai boxers was 0.71% (95% CI: 0.09-1.33), with a significant increase with age. The prevalence rate of PD in those aged 50 and above was 0.17% (95% CI: 0.15-0.20), age-adjusted to the USA 1970 census, which is comparable to that of the general populations. The analysis determined that the number of professional bouts is a risk factor among these boxers, supporting the notion that repetitive head trauma may pose an additional risk to certain individuals who are already susceptible to PD. © 2010 Movement Disorder Society.

Can you get Parkinson’s from stress?

Can Stress Accelerate Progression of Parkinson’s Disease? BOSTON ―Stress may be a modifiable risk factor for Parkinson’s disease progression, according to research presented at the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. In a study of more than 4,000 patients, a stress proxy score predicted mortality and was associated with worsening mobility.

  • The findings suggest that stress reduction may be an effective intervention in Parkinson’s disease, said Amie Hiller, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
  • Potentially, stress reduction is something we could think about to slow Parkinson’s disease progression,” said Dr.

Hiller. “Our goal is to not only treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but to slow progression of the disease.” Research suggests that stressful life events may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. In addition, animal studies indicate that stress damages dopamine cells, resulting in more severe parkinsonian symptoms.

  • In humans, acute stress can worsen motor symptoms, including bradykinesia, freezing, and tremor.
  • To examine the relationship between psychological stress and Parkinson’s disease progression, Dr.
  • Hiller and colleagues analyzed data from the National Parkinson’s Foundation Quality Improvement Initiative.

All 4,155 participants in the study were able to walk unassisted at baseline. For each patient, investigators calculated a stress proxy score derived from the 39-item Parkinson’s Disease Questionnaire (PDQ-39) and the Multidimensional Caregiver Strain Index.

They also calculated a mobility proxy score derived from the PDQ-39 and the Instrumented Timed Up and Go, and an overall health score derived from the PDQ-39, falls score, hospital admissions, and cognitive score. Researchers also calculated patients’ levels of excess stress (ie, emotional stress above typical stress resulting from disease severity and overall health).

The stress proxy score predicted mortality, but the excess stress score did not. High baseline stress proxy scores and high levels of excess stress predicted worsening mobility. “We need better data, as these were not data that we collected specifically to look at stress,” Dr.

Is Parkinson’s curable?

There’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms and maintain your quality of life. These treatments include:

supportive therapies, such as physiotherapymedicationsurgery (for some people)

You may not need any treatment during the early stages of Parkinson’s disease as symptoms are usually mild. But you may need regular appointments with your specialist so your condition can be monitored. A care plan should be agreed with your healthcare team and your family or carers.

Who is most likely to get Parkinson’s?

Who does it affect? – The risk of developing Parkinson’s disease naturally increases with age, and the average age at which it starts is 60 years old. It’s slightly more common in men or people designated male at birth (DMAB) than in women or people designated female at birth (DFAB).

What are usually the first signs of Parkinson’s?

Are you concerned that you, or someone you know, may have Parkinson’s? You or another person might have certain signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s, but it doesn’t mean that you or they have the condition. It’s always best to talk to your GP first and they can refer you to a specialist if your symptoms need further investigation.

Tremors, muscle stiffness and slowness of movement are all common early symptoms of Parkinson’s – but there are also other signs to be aware of.1 Problems with your sleep Sleep and night-time problems are common in Parkinson’s. People with Parkinson’s are more likely to experience insomnia due to certain symptoms which can disrupt sleep.

These include tremor, stiffness, pain and restless leg syndrome. If sleep is affected, people may also feel tired and drowsy during the day.

Learn more about sleep and Parkinson’s

2 Losing your sense of smell Someone with Parkinson’s may notice that their sense of smell may not be as strong as it was or has disappeared. For example, someone may struggle to smell their favourite foods. Loss of smell can sometimes start years before other symptoms develop.

“Losing my sense of smell to Parkinson’s” – read Barrie’s story

3 Smaller handwriting Because of changes in the brain, people with Parkinson’s can find that their movements become smaller and less forceful than before. This can lead to someone’s handwriting becoming smaller than it previously was or gradually getting smaller as they write.

Learn more about communication problems

5 Experiencing depression You may have depression if you are experiencing feelings of extreme sadness or a sense of emotional ’emptiness’ for a long time. In some cases you may experience depression months before you notice any other symptoms. Depression can also be a symptom of ‘non-motor fluctuations’.

Learn about depression and Parkinson’s

6 Experiencing anxiety People with Parkinson’s may experience anxiety, including feelings of unease, such as worry or fear, particularly in the early stages of the condition. Any concerns that someone has about living with a long-term condition may cause anxiety.

Learn more about anxiety with Parkinson’s

7 Feeling fatigued Fatigue is a tiredness that doesn’t just go away with rest. It affects up to half of people with Parkinson’s. You may feel quite fit and able one day and then too fatigued to do much the following day. Fatigue in Parkinson’s is thought to be caused by chemical changes in the brain.

Learn more about fatigue and tiredness

8 Noticing tremor and uncontrollable movement Tremor is an uncontrollable movement that affects a part of the body. A Parkinson’s tremor typically starts in the hand before ‘spreading’ to affect the rest of the arm, or down to the foot on the same side of the body. There is no cure for a tremor, but there are ways to manage the symptom with support from a specialist or Parkinson’s nurse.

Learn about tremor in Parkinson’s

9 Slowness of movement Slowness of movement, also known as ‘bradykinesia’, may mean that it takes someone with Parkinson’s longer to do things. For example, you might struggle with coordination, walking may become more like a shuffle or walking speed may slow down. Everyday tasks, such as paying for items at a check-out or walking to a bus stop, might take longer to do.

You might be interested:  How To Treat A Man Who Takes You For Granted?

Learn about slowness of movement

10 Stiffness, inflexibility and cramps Parkinson’s causes stiff muscles, inflexibility and cramps. This is known as rigidity. This can make certain tasks such as writing, doing up buttons or tying shoe laces, harder. Rigidity can stop muscles from stretching and relaxing. It can be particularly noticeable, for example, if you struggle to turn over or get in and out of bed.

Learn about rigidity

Symptoms and the rate at which they develop will vary from person to person. The most important thing to do if you’re worried you have Parkinson’s is to speak to your GP. If you think you might have Parkinson’s, or are newly diagnosed, find out how best to prepare for your GP and what questions to ask.

At what age does Parkinsons start?

Parkinson’s Disease It’s not common to see Parkinson’s disease in people younger than 50, but for a small subset of sufferers, the disease strikes early. While people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s at an average age of 60, anything younger than 50 is considered young-onset Parkinson’s, or YOPD.

Rarely, Parkinson’s disease may be diagnosed in people younger than 40 — current estimates are that about 2 percent of the 1 million people with Parkinson’s were diagnosed earlier than age 40. Although people who are diagnosed young face a different set of challenges, they may also have reasons for hope and optimism based on their age.

Here’s what you need to know.

Can blows to the head cause Parkinson disease?

The possible connection between head trauma and Parkinson’s is illustrated — perhaps nowhere more prominently — by Muhammad Ali’s diagnosis of young-onset Parkinson’s disease (PD) following a career in boxing. Many have wondered whether repeated hits to the head caused his PD.

While it’s true that environmental factors — including head injury — have been associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s, few (if any) have been determined to be definitive causes of the disease. Environmental factors and genetics may interact to cause disease, and this complex interplay makes it virtually impossible to point to the exact cause(s) in any individual.

Genetics and Environmental Factors May Contribute to Parkinson’s A number of genetic mutations are associated with Parkinson’s disease — some simply increase risk for the disease and others appear to be more direct causes. Many environmental factors (e.g., head trauma, pesticides and solvents) are also linked to an elevated risk of Parkinson’s.

  • Generally though, these environmental risks are designated as “associations” rather than “causes” (i.e., for some reason they contribute to an increased risk but they are not sufficient to cause PD in and of themselves).
  • When faced with these types of associations, researchers look to see if there are other variables or reasons — such as general trauma (to the body rather than specifically to the head or brain) — that are a truer or more important basis for the connection.

They also aim to exclude “reverse causation” (i.e., undiagnosed Parkinson’s disease leading to falls that cause head trauma — rather than vice versa). Genetics may play a more significant role in some cases, particularly in people who have a younger age of disease onset and/or a family history of PD.

  1. However, since family members share genes as well as environmental exposures, the latter cannot be excluded as a strong contributing factor.
  2. Evidence Links Head Trauma and Brain Injury to Parkinson’s Research results have been somewhat inconsistent on Parkinson’s and head trauma or traumatic brain injury (one that alters consciousness and leads to temporary or permanent cognitive, physical and/or emotional problems).

Still, a number of studies have shown a fairly clear link between PD and head or brain trauma (typically secondary to car accidents, falls or sports-related injuries). These studies have compared the history of head trauma or brain injury between groups of people with and without Parkinson’s to demonstrate the association.

In an MJFF-funded study comparing twins (only one of whom had PD), the twin who had previously sustained a head injury was more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The investigators therefore concluded that mild to moderate head injury may heighten the risk of PD, Another review of several published studies confirmed this connection and added that head trauma resulting in concussion is associated with a higher risk of developing PD,

A third study reviewed the medical records of people with traumatic brain injury and individuals with trauma unrelated to the brain (e.g., bone fracture). Their results indicated that traumatic brain injury is linked to an increased risk of a subsequent diagnosis of PD and the risk was higher with more severe or recurrent injuries.

Multiple Possibilities Exist to Explain the Connection between PD and Head or Brain Injury Despite data suggesting that head injury might cause Parkinson’s, it’s still plausible that other factors could explain the association. For example, people with Parkinson’s might be more prone to brain injury (as discussed above).

Or, the brains of those with PD may be more susceptible to trauma and therefore incur more damage than would otherwise be expected. Other theories proposed to explain the link between head or brain trauma and PD include:

Trauma uncovers underlying Parkinson’s disease. In other words, a person would have developed PD anyway, but the trauma acts as the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” It is just one of many factors (e.g., genetics, other environmental insults, etc.) that leads to PD. The relative importance of head injury toward the development of PD may be greater (or less) than other factors, but together they bring about Parkinson’s. Injury causes destruction of dopamine-producing cells. The mechanism is either direct or indirect — such as by provoking an inflammatory process and/or causing tiny bleeds deep in the brain that eventually scar.

Research on Head Trauma and Parkinson’s Is Challenging Studying this association is difficult for many reasons:

Determining the type and amount of an individual’s exposure to a certain environmental risk typically relies on examination of medical records and/or a person’s recollection to report prior events (both of which might be incorrect). Even in boxing, where hits during matches are recorded, those sustained during practice or at other times are typically unknown. Additionally, hits on helmeted boxers or hits that are partially blocked are likely different than unprotected or direct ones. Characterizing the total lifetime exposure (i.e., the number and magnitude of hits to the head) may be very difficult. Varying definitions of what constitutes “head trauma” or a “hit” may be used in studies. Aside from the above considerations, it remains nearly impossible to tell whether most people would have developed Parkinson’s even without an exposure that is linked to the disease.

Still, researchers are working to uncover details about the relationship of environmental (and genetic) factors and Parkinson’s. As they do so, they learn more about potential mechanisms that damage or destroy dopamine-producing cells. This work, some of which MJFF has funded (e.g., both pre-clinical and clinical studies on inflammation and Parkinson’s ), points toward new therapies that can be tested for PD.

A good example of how environmental associations can inform therapeutic development comes through the NIC-PD trial, In looking at large populations of people, researchers noticed that cigarette smoking was associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s. Delving deeper, they postulated that nicotine (rather than other ingredients in smoke or tobacco) might be a protective factor.

This led to the current study which is evaluating that idea — that nicotine (in patch form) might slow or stop PD progression. In conjunction with searching for disease-modifying therapies, investigators are looking for a biomarker — an objective measurement to diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s.

  • This type of indicator could aid clinical management, accelerate research and (especially if it could diagnose PD before symptoms occur) help parse out the association of environmental factors and disease.
  • In one recently completed study (the results of which are pending), researchers evaluated DaTscans in people without PD one year after a mild traumatic brain injury to determine if these specialized brain images could potentially be used for the evaluation of Parkinson’s in this context.

To summarize, head trauma and traumatic brain injury are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s but the mechanisms for how they are connected are unclear and direct causation (head or brain injury actually causing Parkinson’s) has not been established.

More work is necessary to fully understand this relationship. Read about Muhammad Ali’s life and legacy, Get involved in research on environmental factors and Parkinson’s, Learn more about genetics and Parkinson’s disease, Thank you to our 2016 Parkinson’s Disease Education Consortium Supporter and Steering Committee Members.

While our generous sponsors make our educational offerings possible, their support does not influence MJFF’s content or perspective.

What happens in Parkinson’s?

Causes – In Parkinson’s disease, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die. Many of the symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical messenger in your brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes atypical brain activity, leading to impaired movement and other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Genes. Researchers have identified specific genetic changes that can cause Parkinson’s disease. But these are uncommon except in rare cases with many family members affected by Parkinson’s disease. However, certain gene variations appear to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease but with a relatively small risk of Parkinson’s disease for each of these genetic markers. Environmental triggers. Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk of later Parkinson’s disease, but the risk is small.

Researchers have also noted that many changes occur in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease, although it’s not clear why these changes occur. These changes include:

The presence of Lewy bodies. Clumps of specific substances within brain cells are microscopic markers of Parkinson’s disease. These are called Lewy bodies, and researchers believe these Lewy bodies hold an important clue to the cause of Parkinson’s disease. Alpha-synuclein found within Lewy bodies. Although many substances are found within Lewy bodies, scientists believe an important one is the natural and widespread protein called alpha-synuclein (a-synuclein). It’s found in all Lewy bodies in a clumped form that cells can’t break down. This is currently an important focus among Parkinson’s disease researchers.

Is Parkinson’s hereditary?

The Genetic Link to Parkinson’s Disease If you have family members with, or if you yourself have the disease and are concerned about your children’s chances of developing it, you’ve probably already wondered: Is there a gene that causes Parkinson’s disease? How direct is the link? About 15 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease have a family history of the condition, and family-linked cases can result from genetic mutations in a group of genes — LRRK2, PARK2, PARK7, PINK1 or the SNCA gene (see below).

Why is boxing so good for Parkinson’s?

For Some Parkinson’s Patients, Boxing Can Be Therapy No-contact boxing is a great full-body workout for anyone, but some experts say people with neurological disorders just might benefit most.

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Credit. Jack Thompson for The New York Times For Cheryl Karian, a 72-year-old retired physician assistant, boxing is medicine. Ms. Karian, whose Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed in 2020, doesn’t compete or spar, 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. This all changed in the years leading up to her diagnosis in 2020, as she started experiencing cognitive difficulties and frequent falls. “I can’t do what I used to do,” Ms. Karian said one day after a boxing class.

Along with two other class participants, Ms. Karian was shadowboxing, or punching into thin air, under the direction of the professional boxer Austin Trout, known as No Doubt Trout. It was part of a program called Rock Steady Boxing, which specializes in no-contact boxing training for Parkinson’s patients.

  1. As Mr. Trout called out instructions — “One, two! One, two, slip!” — Ms.
  2. Arian threw different punches, dodging and rolling her head, all while maintaining a boxer’s wide-legged stance.
  3. No-contact boxing training has grown more popular over the last decade or so, with popping up before the pandemic hit and more than strapping on gloves in 2020, even while the country in professional boxing.

Boxing’s varied and high-intensity workouts offer a blend of strength and cardiovascular conditioning that improves, and which may be especially beneficial for people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is caused by a chronic deficiency in dopamine, which triggers increasing muscle stiffness, tremors, difficulties with speaking, fatigue, dizziness and a loss of coordination and balance.

Patients’ movements often get very slow and small. Falling is a big problem, especially as symptoms progress. And while there is no cure, or even a way to halt the symptoms, no-contact boxing training seems to offer a way to slow the effects and improve patients’ confidence. “If you train for boxing, you’ll see that your coordination is better, your agility is better, your balance is better,” said Mr.

Trout, a former light middleweight world champion who has been teaching Rock Steady classes for four years. “This is a way to physically fight back against Parkinson’s.” Cheryl Karian (on the far left) and Kathy Smith sitting down with their coach, Austin Trout, during a training session.

Boxing drills have shown great potential to treat the symptoms for certain neurological diseases. Credit. Jack Thompson for The New York Times Rock Steady Boxing was founded in 2006 by Scott Newman, a prosecutor in Marion County, Ind., who discovered that boxing workouts helped him manage his symptoms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease.

In the beginning, it was just him and five other patients training with a former professional boxer, Kristy Follmar. The strangeness of boxing therapy was not lost on them — the sport has among the highest and, While it’s not clear that a lifetime of concussions can cause Parkinson’s, it can,

  1. Muhammad Ali, one of the sport’s most iconic figures, after a professional career in which he famously wore out the hardest-hitting heavyweights of his time by taking punch after punch.
  2. In Rock Steady’s classes, participants don’t take punches; they only throw them.
  3. Ryan Cotton, the chief scientific officer at Rock Steady Boxing, said that in the early days Mr.

Newman and Ms. Follmar were working on a hunch. At the time, Parkinson’s experts recommended focusing on mobility and balance while avoiding overexertion. The wide-legged stance of a boxer and the shifting center of gravity when throwing a punch seemed perfect for training balance and posture.

Mr. Trout, nicknamed “No Doubt Trout,” is a former middleweight champion who still competes professionally. He has been teaching Parkinson’s patients for four years. Credit. Jack Thompson for The New York Times “There was theory this should work, but there was no scientific evidence,” Dr. Cotton said. “Really, science has caught up to us and now supports a lot of the things we were integrating.” In the years since, research has shown that many forms of, and particularly boxing, may of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Boxing also seems to help with other neurological disorders, such as, Rock Steady has grown to over 850 affiliate programs in 17 countries, with training and certification programs for coaches like Mr. Trout, who want to offer training specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease with varying severity of symptoms.

When Ms. Karian’s illness was diagnosed, she knew what her future could look like if she wasn’t proactive. She watched her mother, who also had Parkinson’s disease, for years as her quality of life declined. But she has found that boxing helps her balance, coordination and mental functioning. “I’m going to do as much as I can, for as long as I can,” Ms.

Karian said Around half of all Parkinson’s patients will fall in a given year, most of those more than once. Mr. Trout, like many boxing coaches, drills his students on maintaining a stable stance while keeping their hands by their faces and their arms tucked to protect the body and face.

“This is exceptional training for fall prevention,” said Ben Fung, a physical therapist based in San Diego who specializes in helping patients, including those with Parkinson’s, avoid falling and has a background in mixed martial arts. Many falls happen when a person is either reaching for something or changing direction or velocity.

Learning a boxer’s stance can help with maintaining balance, while keeping the hands up can protect the body and face from injuries in the event of a fall. Participants practice falling as part of the Rock Steady curriculum. “Ending up on the floor is more common than not with people with Parkinson’s,” said Dr.

  1. Cotton, whose father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years after he started working with Rock Steady.
  2. Our boxers still fall, they’re just not paralyzed by fear.” Less fear may mean fewer falls.
  3. One of the biggest factors in whether or not someone is at risk for falling is,” said Rebecca Martin, a professor of physical therapy at Hanover College.

Dr. Martin is not affiliated with Rock Steady Boxing, but seeing its effectiveness has led her to incorporate boxing techniques into her work, which includes leading weekly exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s disease. A found that Parkinson’s patients who underwent twice-weekly training reported fewer falls, with the number of falls going up during Covid-19 lockdowns and going back down once the restrictions were lifted and they were able to resume training.

  • This is something Mr.
  • Trout saw firsthand, as many of his participants — or “fighters,” as he calls them — came back from lockdowns stiffer and shakier than before. Ms.
  • Arian working on her fighting style in a Rock Steady class. Mr.
  • Trout said coaching Parkinson’s patients gives him a deep sense of purpose.

“This is more meaningful than winning a world title,” he said. Credit. Jack Thompson for The New York Times Parkinson’s disease also has psychological effects. As patients lose coordination and balance, many start to second-guess their abilities and pull into a shell, withdrawing from friends and family and limiting trips outside the home, because of fears about falling.

“Parkinson’s takes away your confidence,” Ms. Karian said. “You have to work at it to keep it up.” In a 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 it helped with fatigue, fear of falling, depression and anxiety.

“Parkinson’s disease is not just a condition that affects motor symptoms, such as how you move, walk and talk. Parkinson’s can also affect people’s moods, making them feel lonely or isolated,” said Danielle Larson, a neurologist at Northwestern University and one of the researchers to conduct the survey.

  1. She is also not affiliated with Rock Steady, but said she now often recommends boxing to her patients.
  2. For some of Mr.
  3. Trout’s fighters, boxing class is often the only time they get out of the house each week.
  4. Athy Smith, a retired schoolteacher, said she often felt self-conscious about her abilities in exercise classes.

In Rock Steady Boxing, “they understand, and they help us adjust to our different abilities,” she said. As Mr. Trout’s class reached its end, finishing with a round of core exercises, Ms. Karian and the others were quiet, focusing on doing as much as they could, while Mr.

Why are men more at risk for Parkinson’s?

Abstract – Parkinson’s disease seems to occur more commonly in men than women based primarily on studies of death rates and prevalence. In recent years, several population based incidence studies of Parkinson’s disease that included sex data have been conducted in a variety of populations around the world.

  1. To investigate whether these incidence studies suggest an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease in men, a meta-analysis was performed of the differences in incidence of Parkinson’s disease between men and women reported in seven studies that met the inclusion criteria.
  2. A significantly higher incidence rate of Parkinson’s disease was found among men with the relative risk being 1.5 times greater in men than women.
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Possible reasons for this increased risk of Parkinson’s disease in men are toxicant exposure, head trauma, neuroprotection by oestrogen, mitochondrial dysfunction, or X linkage of genetic risk factors.

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • sex differences
  • risk factors

What foods fight Parkinson’s disease?

The Role of Diet – Following a balanced diet improves general well-being and boosts your ability to deal with symptoms of the disease. Eating plenty of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean protein, beans and legumes, and whole grains, and staying hydrated are key ways to stay energized and healthy overall. That said, you should be aware of some special considerations.

Constipation: Many patients with Parkinson’s disease experience constipation due to a slowdown of the digestive system. At best, constipation is an annoyance, but at worst, your large intestine can become impacted. Combat constipation with a diet rich in fiber from sources such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Drinking plenty of fluids and exercising can also help you avoid constipation. Dehydration: Medications that treat Parkinson’s disease can dry you out. Not only can dehydration leave you more tired, over time, it can also lead to confusion, balance issues, weakness and kidney problems. Be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day. Medication interaction: The drug most commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease, carbidopa-levodopa, is absorbed in your small intestine. That absorption can be disrupted if you take your medication shortly after eating a high-protein meal, since it involves the same process. To help maximize the medication’s effects, eat high-protein foods at other times of the day. If you take your medicine in the morning, have oatmeal rather than high-protein eggs for breakfast, and save your protein intake for later in the day.

How did Michael J Fox get Parkinson’s so early?

T he last time I spoke to Michael J Fox, in 2013, in his office in New York, he was 90% optimistic and 10% pragmatic. The former I expected; the latter was a shock. Ever since 1998, when Fox went public with his diagnosis of early-onset Parkinson’s disease, he has made optimism his defining public characteristic, because of, rather than despite, his illness.

He called his 2002 memoir Lucky Man, and he told interviewers that Parkinson’s is a gift, ” albeit one that keeps on taking “. During our interview, surrounded by the memorabilia (guitars, Golden Globes) he has accrued over the course of his career, he talked about how it had all been for the best. Parkinson’s, he said, had made him quit drinking, which in turn had probably saved his marriage.

Being diagnosed at the heartbreakingly young age of 29 had also knocked the ego out of his career ambitions, so he could do smaller things he was proud of – Stuart Little, the TV sitcom Spin City – as opposed to the big 90s comedies, such as Doc Hollywood, that were too often a waste of his talents.

  1. To be honest, I didn’t entirely buy his tidy silver linings, but who was I to cast doubt on whatever perspective Fox had developed to make a monstrously unjust situation more bearable? So the sudden dose of pragmatism astonished me.
  2. Finding a cure for Parkinson’s, he said, “is not something that I view will happen in my lifetime”.

Previously, he had talked about finding “a cure within a decade “. No more. “That’s just the way it goes,” he said quietly. It was like a dark cloud had partly obscured the sun. Well, seven years is a long time, especially when you have a degenerative disease, and since then, that little cloud turned into a full thunderstorm.

  • In 2018, Fox had surgery to remove a tumour on his spine, unrelated to the Parkinson’s.
  • The aftermath was arduous and dangerous, as tremors and a lack of balance caused by the Parkinson’s threatened the recovery of his fragile spinal cord.
  • One day, at home on his own, after assuring his family he’d be fine without them, he fell over and smashed his upper arm so badly it required 19 screws.

Thankfully, he didn’t damage his spine, but the injury plunged him into previously unplumbed despair. “There is no way to put a shine on my circumstance,” he writes in his new memoir, No Time Like The Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, “Have I oversold optimism as a panacea, commodified hope? In telling other patients, ‘Chin up! It will be OK’, did I look to them to validate my optimism? Is it because I needed to validate it myself? Things don’t always turn out.

Sometimes things turn shitty. My optimism is suddenly finite.” Things being as they currently are, this time Fox and I are meeting by video chat, me in my home in London, him in his office in New York, which looks just as I remember it. “We were here last time, right? I remember,” Fox says, pointing with his chin towards the sofa.

Behind him is a photo of him and his wife of 32 years, the actor Tracy Pollan, both of them looking so young, beautiful and in love. There is also a painting of his dog, Gus, who is in his usual place, sleeping at Fox’s feet. Fox himself, still as boyishly handsome as ever, looks much better than I’d feared.

He is 59 now, close to the average age for a Parkinson’s diagnosis – except that Fox has already had it for 30 years and is in the advanced stages. As he says, “You don’t die from Parkinson’s, but you do die with it,” and typically the longer you have it, the harder it becomes to carry out basic functions.

He can no longer play his beloved guitar, and can’t write or type; this latest book was dictated to Fox’s assistant. He has increasing difficulty in forming words, and occasionally needs a wheelchair. I worried beforehand that talking to me for an hour would be too much, and – less professionally – that I might cry at seeing the physical degeneration of the actor who meant so much to me as a kid. Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back To The Future. Photograph: Universal Pictures It soon becomes apparent that both these concerns hugely underestimate Fox. He talks for not just one hour but almost two, and while the tremors, stiffness and occasional word stumbles are more pronounced than when I last saw him, he is very much the funny, thoughtful and engaged man I remember – so much so that within minutes I stop noticing the effects of the Parkinson’s.

Here’s a typical exchange: at the time of our interview, the US election is still three weeks away, so we talk about that. “Every worst instinct in mankind has been played on, and for me that’s just anathema. Biff is president!” he says, with justified exasperation, given that Back To The Future’s evil bully Biff Tannen was modelled on Trump,

I ask how he felt during the 2016 campaign when Trump mocked the New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a disability. “When you see your particular group mocked, it’s such a gut punch. It’s so senseless and cheap. There’s no way I get up in the morning and mock orange people,” he says, and then makes the grin that, for those of us who grew up watching him in the 1980s and 90s, is our Proustian madeleine.

  1. Back in the mid-80s, Fox was one of the biggest stars in the world.
  2. He was in the TV sitcom Family Ties, playing the Reaganite son of a pair of hippies, and the lead in the most successful movie of 1985, which was, of course, Back To The Future,
  3. It was a meteoric rise for a former army brat who, only a few years earlier, had dropped out of high school in Vancouver to become an actor in Los Angeles.

Fox’s parents couldn’t afford a colour TV until the mid-70s, by which point he was already appearing on Canadian TV shows, having taken himself off to auditions as a teenager. From the start, Fox had terrific screen presence, partly because of his athleticism.

As a kid, his small size belied his hockey talents (“It’s a Canadian thing”), and directors quickly spotted his gift for physical comedy: think of when he dances to Surfing USA on top of the van in Teen Wolf, or how he tries to mirror James Woods in the bafflingly underrated 1991 comedy The Hard Way,

And most of all, think of the skateboarding, the guitar-playing and all that frantic running in Back To The Future. So for Fox to get an illness that affected his bodily control was an irony that was not lost on him. “I had always liked being an actor that editors would cut to at any time for an appropriate reaction – my character would be animated and engaged, In Teen Wolf in 1985. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock But, I tell Fox, I think he’s done some of his best acting since his diagnosis, especially as the slippery lawyer Louis Canning in The Good Wife, who exploits his disability to win his cases; and as the pill-popping paraplegic Dwight on his friend Denis Leary’s show, Rescue Me (he was nominated for three Emmys for The Good Wife, and won for Rescue Me.) “It’s like my walking.

I used to walk fast, but every step is now like a frigging math problem, so I take it slow. And with acting, I used to race to the punchline. But I started to really pay attention because I couldn’t just skate over any moment.” Since 2018, he has had to put a pause on the acting. “If something changes, great, or maybe I can figure out how to do it a different way,” he says, but sounding more as if this is for my benefit than an actual expectation.

Fox felt uniquely prepared for lockdown. “All the virtual meetings and keeping 5ft away from people? I do that anyway,” he says. One of the most poignant moments in his book comes when he describes making a surprise visit to his mother on her 90th birthday, and his fear of knocking her over due to his worsening balance.

  • That is difficult.
  • But Parkinson’s is harder for the people around me than it is on me.
  • The wide variety of movement, from being frozen to careening down the street like a pinball, yeah, that’s hard.
  • But in terms of my feelings about the progress of it, that’s just my situation,” Fox says.
  • His optimism has, he says, “dimmed or softened” over the years, maybe because of age, maybe because of the inexorable progress of the disease.

But one thing that has not changed is his refusal to be self-pitying. “I just don’t see the upside in extracting sympathy from people, or leading with your vulnerability. I need to be understood before I’m helped, because you have to get me before you can get me there,” he says.

Pollan, his wife, is not, he says, “all soft-eyed, like, ‘Are you OK?’ She’s like, ‘Are you really wearing that shirt?'” Because you’re not a patient to her, you’re her husband. “Exactly,” he says, with a relieved grin: I have understood him. This aversion to self-pity nearly kiboshed the book when coronavirus hit, because, he says, “I couldn’t write about myself and my inner wahhhh when the world is falling apart.” (His publishers disagreed and told him, “Use the time to make your deadline.”) It would have been a real shame if he had junked it, because the book is great: moving but also properly funny (only Fox would take up golf after developing Parkinson’s), and now that he has, to varying degrees, jettisoned the fig leaf of determined optimism, it gives the clearest description of life with Parkinson’s I’ve ever read.

Ostensibly, it’s a memoir of his past few years, but Fox describes it more accurately as “an internal travelogue”. “I believe in all the hopeful things I said before,” he says. “But that all seems silly when you’re lying on the floor, waiting for the ambulance because you broke your arm, and you feel like an idiot because you told everyone you’d be fine and you’re not,” he says.

But how could he have known? By dint of having Parkinson’s, Fox has had to become the public’s and his family’s guide to the illness – the world’s highest-profile expert on it, even. But in truth, he’s just figuring it out as he goes along. “Yeah, I’m not playing this on TV,” he laughs. It must have been strange seeing his son – who looks so much like him – go past the age of 29, and to see how obscenely young he was when he was diagnosed, I say.

“Oh yeah, I was a baby. It took me a long time to get my act together and start addressing it,” he says. “It’s such an insidious disease, because when you’re first diagnosed, what you’re presenting is relatively minor. I had a twitching pinky and a sore shoulder.

They said, ‘You won’t be able to work in a few years,’ and I’m thinking, ‘From this?'” When Fox was diagnosed, he had been married for three years and his son, Sam, was a toddler. At first, he couldn’t believe it; then he tried to figure out why. It is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as pesticides and pollution, may cause Parkinson’s; Fox later learned that at least four cast members of Leo & Me, a Canadian TV show he starred in as a teenager, also developed early-onset Parkinson’s.

“But believe it or not, that’s not enough people to be defined as a cluster, so there hasn’t been much research into that. But it is interesting. I can think of a thousand possible scenarios: I used to go fishing in a river near paper mills and eat the salmon I caught; I’ve been to a lot of farms; I smoked a lot of pot in high school when the government was poisoning the crops.

  • But you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out.” Eventually his symptoms became sufficiently noticeable that he had to quit his sitcom Spin City (for which he won three Golden Globes and an Emmy), and make his diagnosis public.
  • He established the Michael J Fox Foundation, which helped sustain his optimism, and in two decades raised more than $1bn for research.

It is one of the most high-profile and effective organisations fighting for a cure. T he ultimate source of his motivation is Pollan. The couple met in 1985 on the set of Family Ties, when she guest-starred as his girlfriend. One day on a lunch break, Fox – a rising star and cocky with it – teased her about her garlic breath.

Instead of being intimidated, Pollan snapped back: “That was mean and rude and you are a complete and total fucking asshole.” Fox fell in love instantly. She has helped keep him in line ever since, and he says she got him out of his depressive slump in 2018. She is, clearly, a hell of a woman. Four years after Fox’s diagnosis, they had their twin daughters, Schuyler and Aquinnah.

After the twins’ fifth birthday – and only two years after he’d had brain surgery to quell the tremors on his left side (it worked, but with Parkinson’s characteristic cruelty, the tremors then moved to his right side) – Pollan told Fox she wanted another baby; their youngest, Esme, was born in 2001.

I tell Fox that after my twins’ fifth birthday, I didn’t want another child, I wanted a Valium. “Ah, it was getting too quiet at home. We knew it needed to be noisier,” he smiles. No Time Like The Future is studded with memories of big family holidays, neither Fox nor Pollan letting the Parkinson’s hold them back.

Although that, too, is starting to change: the family trips to the beach have become tricky, as it’s hard for Fox to walk around. But he’s still determined to go on one soon, with Pollan to St Barts: “Sometimes I write cheques I can’t cash, but what the hell,” he shrugs.

Another factor that has helped is the wealth Fox reaped when he was younger, not least from Back To The Future. But he nearly wasn’t in that film at all. Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly, until director Robert Zemeckis realised Stoltz didn’t have what was later described as “the screwball energy” Marty needed, and he knew which actor did.

Fox has never resented being so defined by one film, but for a long time he was bemused by Back To The Future’s impact. “It’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand it. I showed my son Sam movies from that time which I loved – 48 Hrs, The Jerk – and he didn’t get them.

But if you show a kid today Back To The Future, they get it. It’s this thing that’s timeless, which is ironic because it’s about time,” he says. A large part of that timelessness is down to Fox. His bright-eyed charm and, yes, screwball energy give the film a joyful momentum that makes it an enduring pleasure.

For me, it is that rarest of things: a perfect movie, easily up there with The Godfather and Some Like It Hot, But there is one scene that has become more painful to watch as the years have passed. Marty (Fox) is playing guitar at the school dance where his parents, George (Crispin Glover) and Lorraine (Lea Thompson), originally got together, but it looks as if that might not happen now.

  1. As George walks away, Marty’s fingers stop working as they should.
  2. Then his legs go, and he collapses on to the floor.
  3. I can’t play,” he mutters, shocked.
  4. Just then, George kisses Lorraine, and Marty snaps up, as if on springs.
  5. He looks with relief at his now functioning hand, and then launches into his performance of Johnny B Goode.

But life, as Fox says several times in his book, is not like a movie. In The Good Wife in 2015. Photograph: CBS/Getty Images What is the middle ground between optimism and despair? Before talking with Fox, I’d have suggested pragmatism, but that gets dangerously close to despair when you’re having to be pragmatic about a degenerative disease with, as yet, no cure.

  • So Fox found a different path.
  • When I broke my arm, it was relatively minor, but that was the thing that destroyed me.
  • I thought, what further indignity do I have to suffer? What have I done? Maybe I was wrong to think I couldn’t complain before, maybe optimism doesn’t work,” he says.
  • There were, he says, some dark days spent lying on the sofa, but after a while he got bored.

“Then I came to a place of gratitude. Finding something to be grateful for is what it’s about,” he says. Optimism is about the promises of the future, gratitude looks at the present. Fox has retrained his focus from running towards what will be, to seeing what is.

  1. He and Pollan spent lockdown on Long Island with all their children: Sam, 31, Schuyler and Aquinnah, 25, and Esme, 19.
  2. We were always linger-after-dinner people anyway, and now we were lingering and talking about what people were going through.
  3. Doing jigsaws, Tracy cooking up a storm, everyone there, these wonderful children and this great wife,” he says.

When Fox says “I can’t believe I have this life”, he is not referring to the restrictions of Parkinson’s – he is talking about his happy home. We have now gone more than 40 minutes over the allotted time, and he repeatedly assures his assistant, who comes in to check, that he wants to keep talking.

  1. I tell him that since we last met I’ve interviewed pretty much every major player from Back To The Future,
  2. How’s Crispin?” he asks, with palpable curiosity about his notoriously eccentric former co-star.
  3. Pretty out there, I say, which is an understatement.
  4. I haven’t spoken to Crispin since the movie, but I always liked him.
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I remember on the first movie, him and Bob Zemeckis really going at each other about this one scene: Crispin wanted to do it with a broom and Bob didn’t, and oh my God! The indignation! As soon as they moved on and it was safe, I poked my head out of the dressing room, and Chris poked his head out, and we looked at one another and were like, ‘Thank God that was nothing to do with us!'” he says, bugging his eyes out, Christopher Lloyd-style.

Lloyd is no slouch in the eccentricity department himself. When I interviewed him in 2016, the one time he showed real, non-ironised emotion was when talking about Fox: “What he’s had to deal with, and he just moves ahead with humour and sensitivity. I was watching Back To The Future recently and I thought, ‘Wow, the way he moved ‘” Marty and Doc’s friendship feels so real on screen that it has been homaged endlessly, including the cartoon Rick And Morty,

Were they close when they made the film? “We were both so focused on what we were doing, and I was also making Family Ties at the same time, so we didn’t really hang out. But we became close after the movies, and now we’re really tight,” Fox says. By this point, I let my guard down so much that, to my horror, I hear myself telling Fox that, whenever anyone asks me who my favourite interviewee is, in my two decades of talking to celebrities, I always say him.

I also burble that interviewing him in 2013 for ever changed my perspective of chronic illness and what constitutes a life well lived. He smiles the smile of a man who is used to hyperbolic compliments from strangers, but does not doubt their authenticity. “This will sound strange, but Eddie Van Halen passed away the other day, and he had a cameo in Back To The Future,” he says.

(Van Halen played the music that Marty plays to George, to convince him he’s being visited by an alien.) “My kids found a picture of me from 1983 with Eddie Van Halen, where I look 12, and he looks 14, and I thought, ‘What a cool life I’ve lived, where my kids can find a picture of me with Van Halen on the internet.’ It’s like looking back on footprints in the sand. Michael J Fox with his family, from left: Schuyler, Aquinnah, his wife, Tracy Pollan, Sam and Esme in 2018. Photograph: Getty Images Does he ever watch his old movies? “I don’t. I might watch for a few minutes, then I change the channel. It’s just ” he trails off.

  1. He changes the subject to Muhammad Ali, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in his early 40s and died in 2016.
  2. I wondered what he thought when he saw old footage of himself, so I asked his wife, Lonnie, if it made him sad.
  3. She said, ‘Are you kidding? He loves it! He’d watch it all day if he could.’ For him, any feelings of loss or wistfulness were overtaken by the celebration that it existed: it’s a fact, it’s evidence and it’s preserved.” His children, he says, don’t really watch his movies.

When his daughters were younger and read magazines about One Direction, he would say, “Thirty years ago, that was me!” What did they do? “They would roll their eyes. But my son, Sam, he gets it. He knows all about filmmakers and films, so he really understands my career.” Maybe that’s a way for him to get to know you in the past, I say.

  1. Like Marty meeting a young George.
  2. Yeah, maybe.
  3. I think he appreciates it.
  4. But I never wanted my kids to know me as anything other than their dad.” His assistant comes in to ask him about lunch.
  5. He says he’s happy to keep talking, but I say I’d feel bad if I kept him from going out for lunch with his wife.

“OK, it was nice to see you. I’ll write another book just to do this again,” he says, cheerfully. Before he goes, I sneak in another question: given that he uses the word in his book’s title, how does he feel about the future now? “I don’t make a lot of plans.

I’m a little – I sometimes wonder how ” he trails off again. Until so recently, he maintained momentum: travelling, golfing with his friends, determinedly moving forward. How is he finding staying still? “Some of those changes are hard. But as limited as I am in some regards, if you’d told me when I was diagnosed that I’d have this life now and do the things that I do, I’d have said, ‘I’ll take it.’ I can move around – it takes some planning, but I can move.

I can think, I can communicate and I can express affection. What else do you want?”

Can fighting cause Parkinson’s?

Muhammad Ali was still boxing professionally when observers first noticed signs of neurological decline, and many have been quick to link his profession to his diagnosis, years later, of Parkinson’s disease. In the decades that followed, and with Ali’s death Friday at the age of 74, however, a stubborn fact remains: Neurologists cannot definitively say whether Ali’s symptoms were a result of his boxing career.

  • But they said head trauma does increase the risk.
  • It’s very hard to point in almost any individual case to what’s causing the Parkinson’s,” said Todd Sherer, the chief executive of the Michael J.
  • Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research,
  • But there’s pretty convincing data that head injury can increase your risk for developing the disease.” Sherer, who holds a PhD in neuroscience, said a 2006 study published in Annals of Neurology helped establish that risk.

In the study, a team led by Dr. Samuel Goldman, of the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center in Sunnyvale, Calif., followed the cases of 93 pairs of twins in which only one of each had Parkinson’s. Those who had sustained at least one head injury were more likely than their twin to have a later diagnosis of Parkinson’s, and the likelihood increased in those with more than one head injury.

Parkinson’s is a progressive nervous system disorder in which vital nerve cells in the brain malfunction and die, curbing the production of dopamine, the chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls motor skills. Symptoms include tremors, slowed movement, and speech changes, among others.

There is no cure, but treatment options can help manage symptoms, Goldman said Saturday that he was not familiar with the details of Ali’s case, “but from what I understand there’s a good likelihood that his Parkinson’s is a consequence of repetitive head trauma.” Based on more recent studies of laboratory animals, Goldman said that he believes those who suffer two episodes of brain trauma within a short period of time are more likely to experience degenerative brain symptoms later in life.

  1. It can really set off a degenerative cascade,” he said. Dr.
  2. Rodolfo Savica, a physician and researcher with the Mayo Clinic, agreed that those who suffer head trauma are more likely to face a diagnosis of Parkinson’s later in life.
  3. Genetic components, he and others believe, are also at play.
  4. There is definitely an individual predisposition to develop this disease that we think can be potentially enhanced by the head trauma itself,” he said.

Dr. John Trojanowski, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said he met Ali at a fundraising event in Las Vegas several years ago, by which point the boxer was unable to speak. Based on what Trojanowski understood of Ali’s symptoms, and Trojanowski’s own research, he said it’s “highly likely that his early-onset Parkinson’s was a result of his boxing.” “We know that at some threshold, once crossed, exposure to traumatic brain injury and repetitive brain injury sets the stage for early onset forms of neurodegeneration,” he said.

What disease can you get from boxing?

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive brain condition that’s thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head and repeated episodes of concussion. It’s particularly associated with contact sports, such as boxing or American football.

Most of the available studies are based on ex-athletes. CTE was previously known as “punch drunk” syndrome and dementia pugilistica. But these terms are no longer used because it’s now known that the condition is not limited to ex-boxers. There’s still some debate about how common CTE is and how it should be diagnosed.

Currently, only supportive treatments are available and research is focused on finding a reliable technique to diagnose the condition.

Can sports cause Parkinson’s disease?

Athletes playing contact sports for longer than eight years are six times more likely to develop Lewy body disease — a neurodegenerative disorder causing Parkinson’s-like symptoms — compared to those playing football, ice hockey or boxing for fewer years, a study reports.

  • Its authors suggest that years of continual injury to the brain, rather than those causing concussions, might be a determining factor.
  • The study, ” Lewy Body Pathology and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Associated With Contact Sports,” was published in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology,

Mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI), like concussions, that occur during contact sports are a growing health concern. Playing contact sports for multiple years — regardless of concussion history — is already associated with brain imaging abnormalities.

  • Consequently, players are considered to be at an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and parkinsonism.
  • CTE develops as a result of repetitive head impacts, mainly through contact sports, and is characterized by abnormal changes in behavioral, mood, and cognitive and motor skills.

A 2016 study found an association between TBIs resulting in a loss of consciousness in people under age 25 and an increased risk of Lewy bodies — which correspond to aggregates of α-synuclein — in the brain. Deposits of α-synuclein, called Lewy body disease (LBD), is associated with cognitive and motor abnormalities, and linked to later possible dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

  • Both trauma and CTE are also known to influence α-synuclein deposition in the brain, which can explain the motor symptoms sometimes found in athletes with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
  • Researchers with Boston institutes examined whether contact sports and CTE are also linked with Lewy body disease.

They assessed the presence and distribution of Lewy bodies in the brains of 269 deceased contact sports athletes (professional or amateur), 164 brain donations representing the community, and 261 from brain bank at the Boston University Alzheimer Disease Center.

Is boxing exercise good for Parkinson’s disease?

For Some Parkinson’s Patients, Boxing Can Be Therapy No-contact boxing is a great full-body workout for anyone, but some experts say people with neurological disorders just might benefit most.

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Credit. Jack Thompson for The New York Times For Cheryl Karian, a 72-year-old retired physician assistant, boxing is medicine. Ms. Karian, whose Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed in 2020, doesn’t compete or spar, but every Tuesday and Thursday, she trains for an hour at Main Street Boxing and Muay Thai in downtown Houston.

  • Before her diagnosis, Ms.
  • Arian ran, played tennis and worked a demanding job caring for patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
  • This all changed in the years leading up to her diagnosis in 2020, as she started experiencing cognitive difficulties and frequent falls.
  • I can’t do what I used to do,” Ms.
  • Arian said one day after a boxing class.

Along with two other class participants, Ms. Karian was shadowboxing, or punching into thin air, under the direction of the professional boxer Austin Trout, known as No Doubt Trout. It was part of a program called Rock Steady Boxing, which specializes in no-contact boxing training for Parkinson’s patients.

As Mr. Trout called out instructions — “One, two! One, two, slip!” — Ms. Karian threw different punches, dodging and rolling her head, all while maintaining a boxer’s wide-legged stance. No-contact boxing training has grown more popular over the last decade or so, with popping up before the pandemic hit and more than strapping on gloves in 2020, even while the country in professional boxing.

Boxing’s varied and high-intensity workouts offer a blend of strength and cardiovascular conditioning that improves, and which may be especially beneficial for people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is caused by a chronic deficiency in dopamine, which triggers increasing muscle stiffness, tremors, difficulties with speaking, fatigue, dizziness and a loss of coordination and balance.

Patients’ movements often get very slow and small. Falling is a big problem, especially as symptoms progress. And while there is no cure, or even a way to halt the symptoms, no-contact boxing training seems to offer a way to slow the effects and improve patients’ confidence. “If you train for boxing, you’ll see that your coordination is better, your agility is better, your balance is better,” said Mr.

Trout, a former light middleweight world champion who has been teaching Rock Steady classes for four years. “This is a way to physically fight back against Parkinson’s.” Cheryl Karian (on the far left) and Kathy Smith sitting down with their coach, Austin Trout, during a training session.

  • Boxing drills have shown great potential to treat the symptoms for certain neurological diseases. Credit.
  • Jack Thompson for The New York Times Rock Steady Boxing was founded in 2006 by Scott Newman, a prosecutor in Marion County, Ind., who discovered that boxing workouts helped him manage his symptoms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease.

In the beginning, it was just him and five other patients training with a former professional boxer, Kristy Follmar. The strangeness of boxing therapy was not lost on them — the sport has among the highest and, While it’s not clear that a lifetime of concussions can cause Parkinson’s, it can,

  • Muhammad Ali, one of the sport’s most iconic figures, after a professional career in which he famously wore out the hardest-hitting heavyweights of his time by taking punch after punch.
  • In Rock Steady’s classes, participants don’t take punches; they only throw them.
  • Ryan Cotton, the chief scientific officer at Rock Steady Boxing, said that in the early days Mr.

Newman and Ms. Follmar were working on a hunch. At the time, Parkinson’s experts recommended focusing on mobility and balance while avoiding overexertion. The wide-legged stance of a boxer and the shifting center of gravity when throwing a punch seemed perfect for training balance and posture.

  1. Mr. Trout, nicknamed “No Doubt Trout,” is a former middleweight champion who still competes professionally.
  2. He has been teaching Parkinson’s patients for four years. Credit.
  3. Jack Thompson for The New York Times “There was theory this should work, but there was no scientific evidence,” Dr.
  4. Cotton said.
  5. Really, science has caught up to us and now supports a lot of the things we were integrating.” In the years since, research has shown that many forms of, and particularly boxing, may of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Boxing also seems to help with other neurological disorders, such as, Rock Steady has grown to over 850 affiliate programs in 17 countries, with training and certification programs for coaches like Mr. Trout, who want to offer training specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease with varying severity of symptoms.

When Ms. Karian’s illness was diagnosed, she knew what her future could look like if she wasn’t proactive. She watched her mother, who also had Parkinson’s disease, for years as her quality of life declined. But she has found that boxing helps her balance, coordination and mental functioning. “I’m going to do as much as I can, for as long as I can,” Ms.

Karian said Around half of all Parkinson’s patients will fall in a given year, most of those more than once. Mr. Trout, like many boxing coaches, drills his students on maintaining a stable stance while keeping their hands by their faces and their arms tucked to protect the body and face.

“This is exceptional training for fall prevention,” said Ben Fung, a physical therapist based in San Diego who specializes in helping patients, including those with Parkinson’s, avoid falling and has a background in mixed martial arts. Many falls happen when a person is either reaching for something or changing direction or velocity.

Learning a boxer’s stance can help with maintaining balance, while keeping the hands up can protect the body and face from injuries in the event of a fall. Participants practice falling as part of the Rock Steady curriculum. “Ending up on the floor is more common than not with people with Parkinson’s,” said Dr.

Cotton, whose father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years after he started working with Rock Steady. “Our boxers still fall, they’re just not paralyzed by fear.” Less fear may mean fewer falls. “One of the biggest factors in whether or not someone is at risk for falling is,” said Rebecca Martin, a professor of physical therapy at Hanover College.

Dr. Martin is not affiliated with Rock Steady Boxing, but seeing its effectiveness has led her to incorporate boxing techniques into her work, which includes leading weekly exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s disease. A found that Parkinson’s patients who underwent twice-weekly training reported fewer falls, with the number of falls going up during Covid-19 lockdowns and going back down once the restrictions were lifted and they were able to resume training.

  1. This is something Mr.
  2. Trout saw firsthand, as many of his participants — or “fighters,” as he calls them — came back from lockdowns stiffer and shakier than before. Ms.
  3. Arian working on her fighting style in a Rock Steady class. Mr.
  4. Trout said coaching Parkinson’s patients gives him a deep sense of purpose.

“This is more meaningful than winning a world title,” he said. Credit. Jack Thompson for The New York Times Parkinson’s disease also has psychological effects. As patients lose coordination and balance, many start to second-guess their abilities and pull into a shell, withdrawing from friends and family and limiting trips outside the home, because of fears about falling.

“Parkinson’s takes away your confidence,” Ms. Karian said. “You have to work at it to keep it up.” In a 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 it helped with fatigue, fear of falling, depression and anxiety.

“Parkinson’s disease is not just a condition that affects motor symptoms, such as how you move, walk and talk. Parkinson’s can also affect people’s moods, making them feel lonely or isolated,” said Danielle Larson, a neurologist at Northwestern University and one of the researchers to conduct the survey.

  1. She is also not affiliated with Rock Steady, but said she now often recommends boxing to her patients.
  2. For some of Mr.
  3. Trout’s fighters, boxing class is often the only time they get out of the house each week.
  4. Athy Smith, a retired schoolteacher, said she often felt self-conscious about her abilities in exercise classes.

In Rock Steady Boxing, “they understand, and they help us adjust to our different abilities,” she said. As Mr. Trout’s class reached its end, finishing with a round of core exercises, Ms. Karian and the others were quiet, focusing on doing as much as they could, while Mr.