Parkinson's patients box to work on hand-eye coordination, footwork and agility

Punching out Parkinson

Training to beat Parkinson's Disease
Training to beat Parkinson's Disease

FORT WORTH, Texas – It happens 60,000 times a year.  That's how often doctors tell people they have Parkinson's disease.  After that, the fight against the disease begins.  Now there is a program where Parkinson's patients are actually throwing punches.

He's a two-time world boxing champion and now Paulie Ayala trains a special class of fighters.  People with Parkinson's. His program is called 'Punching out Parkinson's' at his university of hard knocks gym, in Fort Worth.    

 "I mean these are total strangers that I would never run into, I mean that have never went to go see me fight. They're over here fighting their own battle, so I'm just happy that I'm able to help," says Ayala.

There's zero chance for a knockout here. About 80 Parkinson's fighters focus on their hand-eye coordination, footwork and agility. An expert in the disease says the program is a winner.    

"Look at them. They were in a wheelchair six months ago, and now they are boxing Paulie. if they can do it, i can do it, and in time, they will do it Ayala,"   

Just watch Suzanne Maxwell.   

 "I was doing like one foot at a time, and then all of a sudden I picked up both feet and started jumping. I haven't jumped rope since i was a teenager. It's tremendous. Paulie is a great coach. He doesn't cut us any slack either," says Maxwell.  

Sherry Campbell loves the group dynamics of the workout and her pink gloves.    

 "I put my gloves on yesterday for all my grandchildren and they were quite impressed," says Campbell.  

Former banking CEO Murray Zoota wants to grow Paulie's program nationally.     

 "I always want to think in my mind that I'm knocking Paulie out. I try to hit him sometimes as hard as I can.  This works, and I'm not ever putting anybody in danger. I'm not ever going to hurt anybody," says Zoota.   

With a former world champ in their corner, these fighters are convinced they'll never have to throw in the towel against Parkinson's.

Paulie is working with a team of physical therapists to study whether boxing therapy is effective enough to be covered under healthcare plans in the future.

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