Boxing Therapy for Parkinson's Patients



By Derya Anderson

(May 2016) At first it would seem that boxing and Parkinson’s disease don’t have a lot in common. However, if you ask physical therapist Lee Chow, he would tell you differently.

Chow, DPT, is one of the coordinators of the Power Punch for Parkinson’s program, a class held at local boxing gyms and taught by boxing coaches and physical therapy students with the aim of providing a new and exciting exercise option for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder characterized by slow movement, stiffness, uncontrolled shaking and difficulty with balance. An ideal exercise regimen for this type of disorder would incorporate quick movements, weight shifting fluid motion and focus. These are characteristics intrinsic to boxing, which also involves trunk and neck rotation, dual task activities and aerobic exercise, all of which are important in the management of the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

Participants are also able to see progress, find social support and literally “fight” their disease, which keeps them coming back for more. Obviously, physical therapists couldn’t help but get involved with this amazing combination.

“It’s been great watching the program grow,” says Lee, who was introduced to Power Punch during his second clinical rotation of Physical Therapy Program at the University of Colorado. He helped form the program in Denver and the first official Power Punch class was offered at the Cox-Lyle Red Shield Boxing gym in Denver in November 2014.

Since then, there have been new classes added there an at several other locations in Fort Collins, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Vail and other sites in Denver.

The program also provides an avenue for PT students to offer service in their communities and deepen their understanding of Parkinson’s disease.

Second-year PT student Rachel Powell says: “[The participants] all come to us in different stages of the disease and every single person is so inspiring. They challenge me to come up with different activities and I learn something new every class.”

Samantha Stolper, also a second-year PT student, says: “Every person has a unique story and Parkinson’s disease is only a small part of that. It’s incredible to see their journey from when they first start boxing to when they become comfortable and fluent with the moves.”

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