Parkinson’s patients go 10 rounds a day at DopaFit center

Perhaps one of the most high-profile Parkinson’s patients on the planet was the late Muhammad Ali. In his prime, the beloved and iconic champion boxer was blessed with the lightning reflexes and devastating combinations of jabs and ballerina-like moves that saw him pummel his opponents. However, the dazzling boxer who could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” was ultimately defeated by a foe that, over time, simply wore the legendary champion out and knocked him down for the full count. The opponent was Parkinson’s disease, and even “The Greatest” was simply no match for the relentless way in which it stalked him.  
So what is Parkinson’s disease? Simply put, when brain cells (neurons) deteriorate, Parkinson’s is the resulting condition. It is a chronic and degenerative disease that is relentless in breaking down the body of those that it attacks. Muscle control is lost due to a lack of dopamine in the brain, the result of which produces difficulties in walking and coordination and the development of severe tremors. At this time, there is no cure, and it is a disease that does not go away on its own. 
For many years, there has been widespread speculation that boxing was a prime contributor in the onset of Parkinson’s in Muhammad Ali. Over the course of his career, he was on the receiving end of a massive barrage of sledgehammer punches that may have resulted in head trauma, and ultimately, the development of Parkinson’s.
Chad Moir, of Worcester, is doing something to combat this debilitating disease with a unique and comprehensive program that offers Parkinson’s patients a new sense of hope. Moir has led them to — of all things — boxing as a form of alternative therapy to battle Parkinson’s. 
Operating out of the ABL Dance Studio in West Boylston, Moir, whose own mother passed away at 55 from complications of Parkinson’s, has established DopaFit, a carefully crafted regimen of group training that features boxing exercises and has participants putting on the gloves and hammering away at heavy, stationary punching bags. This is not undertaken as a means to get in shape, but rather, as a unique and innovative alternative therapy to fight the onslaught of a heinous disease. 
The routine has participants performing a variety of movements that involve quick bursts of energy and a focus on footwork and punching, and it has already helped patients to strike back at Parkinson’s. Word of this success story is spreading.  With classes already running in Easthampton and West Boylston, Moir said, “Our goal is to set up another Parkinson’s Wellness Center in the Worcester area. We want to spread hope, inspiration and smiles to as many people living with Parkinson’s as possible.” 
Asked about how his program participants feel about the program, Moir said, “They love it. They get a good workout, and most importantly, they have fun doing it. It’s not just exercise to them; it’s medicine. They say that it has helped them gain greater balance, strength, energy and do things they used to love to do before Parkinson’s.” 
One can’t help but be touched by the thoughtful and personal side that percolates up to Moir’s surface when asked about what drives him to do this work in which he’s so immersed. At the core of the effort is his late mother. “Sports have always been a big part of my life. My mother never missed a game. She was my biggest supporter,” Moir said. “My mother passed away in her sleep attending a family reunion in Tennessee. We are unsure of the formal cause of her death. Since she was living with Parkinson’s disease, they ruled that the cause of death. My mother is my inspiration because all her life she was always willing to help anyone in need. I am driven by my mother’s memory.” 
There seems to be a bit of irony in the fact that Parkinson’s patients are now seeing some healing effect from engaging in the very activity that may have ignited Parkinson’s in the greatest boxer the world has ever known. Of Ali, Moir said, “Muhammad Ali was an icon, in and out of the ring. His charisma and passion for helping others left the world a better place. Those who do not know anyone with Parkinson’s oftentimes know that Ali lived with the disease, and this has helped bring greater awareness to Parkinson’s disease.”
Paul Collins is a freelance writer from Southborough.

Comments are closed.