Muhammad Ali is widely considered one of the greatest athletes of all time, but later in life even he was proven mortal when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Now, Iowans are using the sport that Ali once dominated to fight back against Parkinson’s; a specialized program called Rock Steady Boxing.
The program was started by a man from Indianapolis named Scott Newman.
Newman was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s at age 40. Together with his boxer friend, he developed a program that has shown results in recent scientific studies.
“The quality of life on every aspect they measured, the folks that did Rock Steady were far superior,” said Rock Steady Boxing Coach Todd Hirsch.
LaDona Molander participates in the class held at the Fyzical Therapy and Balance Center in Urbandale.
She shares a similar backstory with the program’s founder.
“I was so young, I was 32, so I was so young it didn’t seem like it was a lifelong diagnosis so I kinda felt like I was going to beat it and I was going to take medicine and be done with it; but I’ve realized it’s a fight for the rest of my life,” said Molander.
Earlier in life LaDona was a three-sport athlete, but no longer.
“It didn’t hit me until 10 years later when I realized I was losing my balance and that really hurt. Can’t play tennis anymore, so that was hard,” she said.
Iowa's Rock Steady Boxing program is only 30 days old; Coach Hirsch says so far he's only seen small changes, but ones that are big for people with Parkinson’s
“That’s a huge deal, just a small improvement of being able to shuffle lateral left and right, being able to hop, I mean those movements that we take for granted every day, and they have to fight it,” he said.
Paul Spong was diagnosed only a year ago, he says he's fighting for the future.
“We think it’s going to slow down the progression of the tremor that I have,” as he shows his trembling thumb. "My mantra has become, they can’t cure it, at least not yet, it’s going to get worse, and I can’t hide it so let’s see. I have to go home and mow the lawn! Kinda move on,” he said.
LaDona feels the same way
“I feel like I’m charging forward,” she said. “It helps me so I don`t have to take medicine as often, it just gets those natural dopamine and endorphins going”.
A fighting spirit Coach Hirsch says they discover.
“You’ve got a disease that does not discriminate, it will take your life, it will steal, rob, lie, it’s awesome to see 90 minutes, three times a week, they come in here and they try to get back a little bit of what was stolen from them," he said.
Rock Steady Boxing offers classes in Pella and Atlantic, to find out more click here.