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Parkinson's Disease

The gloves are on in fight against Parkinson’s

At the Tazmanian Boxing Club in north Carson City, clients are receiving much more than training to become pugilists. They are gaining an upper hand in the fight against Parkinson’s Disease.

Gym owner Francisco Rodriguez has partnered with Nina Vogel, a licensed physical therapist with Carson-Tahoe Health, to offer a therapeutic way for Parkinson’s patients to combat the devastating effects of the neurological disease through the discipline of boxing.

“A lot of people are intimidated by boxing, thinking that they are too old or too advanced (in their disease process), which isn’t true at all,” Vogel said. “All the research about Parkinson’s shows high intensity exercise helps improve function.”

Boxing, she says, focuses on speed, power, and agility. Punching, for instance, can help with tremors, said Vogel. Other exercises focus on improving balance and coordination, which Parkinson’s Disease effects.

“Peoples’ speed, their shuffling, balance, and their posture improves so much,” Vogel said. Rodriguez, a former professional Bantam-weight World Boxing Council Latin American title holder and Arizona state champion with a record of 28-4-4, couldn’t agree more.

“The way they (the patients) move their hands now, they have more control now,” he said. “They are able to stretch a lot better and control their muscles with better technique.”
Rodriguez said balance is a key element of boxing, and it happens to be an area of need for those stricken with Parkinson’s Disease.

Another important boxing principal, Rodriguez said, is self-control. Parkinson’s Disease effects an individual’s ability to control fine and gross motor movements. Exercises that focus on helping muscles regain control are important to therapy, Vogel said.

The vigorous, high-intensity exercise involved in boxing also benefits sleep, added Vogel, and sleep difficulty is a common symptom of Parkinson’s Disease. Besides the physical benefits of boxing, there are also mental and emotional benefits, too, Vogel added. “Mentally, they (the patients) feel hope as this is a way to empower people,” she said. “Fellowship of people who share the same struggles is really important.”

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