Multiple Approaches to Treating Parkinson’s Disease – Movement Disorders Specialist Becomes a Rock Steady Boxing TrainerMonday, April 10th, 2017
Rock Steady Boxing has caught on like wildfire and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn about it (along with various other forms of exercise) at this year’s Parkinson’s Unity Walk. They will have representatives at the new Movement and Exercise booth on Margot Zobel Way, along with representatives from Dance for PD and Delay the Disease. In addition, two different affiliates – RSB Central Jersey and RSB Randolph, NJ YMCA – will be performing demonstrations on the Bandshell stage. When we found out Dr. Adena Leder, a movement disorders specialist on Long Island, became trained as a RSB instructor, we asked her to share her experience. We hope you stop by the Movement and Exercise booth to find out where this is a class in your local community and enjoy the RSB demonstrations at the Walk.
PUW Event Director
It was during my movement disorder fellowship that I first learned about the importance of exercise in Parkinson’s disease (PD). It was always clinically obvious when a patient had stopped physical therapy, or was actively involved.
Several years ago, a patient first told me about Rock Steady Boxing (RSB). Like many people’s first thought, I asked “doesn’t boxing cause Parkinson’s disease?” More and more patients began to buzz about “this boxing class for Parkinson’s.” When Leslie Stahl presented it on CBS I knew it would be an asset to the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) Parkinson’s disease treatment center.
It had been at least 10 years since I started treating PD patients and I was growing frustrated with the limitations of the medications. There were many young patients who had been using levodopa for more than a decade and others who were unresponsive to levodopa altogether. I wanted to add another tool to my proverbial toolbox.
With NYIT’s support, I (along with two physical therapists and an occupational therapist from the Adele Smither’s Parkinson’s Disease Center) went to Indianapolis for Rock Steady Boxing training camp. I was confident that this would be a great opportunity for me to motivate my patients to exercise. Interestingly, prior to this experience I had never donned boxing gloves, much less boxed.
A large part of the training for RSB was learning about the features of Parkinson’s disease. For myself and my NYIT colleagues, this was the easy part. Each facet of PD is addressed in the class. For example: voice is an issue, therefore during the introduction each boxer must introduce themselves with a loud voice. Cognitive cards are used for multitasking during the fine motor station of the circuit. Gait and balance are addressed during the obstacle course station and social interaction occurs throughout each class.
In Indianapolis, many of the trainees either worked as personal trainers or had MMA (mixed martial arts) experience. Learning how to properly put on wraps and learning how to box was like learning a new language. What impressed me most about the program, was not how physically challenging it was (which it was), but how much interpersonal relationships were being formed. All of the circuits involved teaming up in some way and interacting with others. Additionally, the patients are referred to as “boxers” rather than patients. Aides or spouses that assist are referred to as “cornermen.” All of these are intended to boost morale.
Since September, I have been co-coaching 4 classes per week. I have been impressed with the level of camaraderie that has developed amongst the boxers. It is gratifying to see improvement in the patients, especially ones that were unsuccessful previously using other modalities. Finally, I have something to offer my patients that I did not previously have. Generally, after they come once, they’re hooked because it is an enjoyable and engaging form of exercise.
A large part of the success of the NYIT program is due to the medical student and physical therapy student volunteers. Not only do they help run the class, but they help to motivate the boxers and often act as “cornermen” as needed. For the students, it is a terrific opportunity because they are able to interact with large numbers of Parkinson’s patients and observe how the disease presents differently in different patients. It is also inspiring to see how hard the patients are working in order to improve their quality of life.
Adena Leder DO, Neurologist
Rock Steady Boxing NYIT Long Island
Assistant Professor, Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine
New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine