Fighting Back Against Parkinson's

Mar 01, 2017 - 8:00 am

Rock Steady Boxing Becomes Available In Lancaster

Bill Dorsey was first diagnosed with Parkinson's disease over two years ago. For the last several months, he has been taking part in a Rock Steady Boxing class offered by Susan Ludwig. Soon, that same class will be offered to other Parkinson's patients at the Emerald Foundation Community Center, 2120 Oregon Pike, Lancaster. Dorsey is amazed at the improvement he has seen in his mobility since beginning the class.

"The change is pretty dramatic," said Dorsey, who found himself having to rest while walking his dog back and forth to the park. He can now walk 4 miles and bike 22 miles. But being able to cover distances is only part of Dorsey's story. "My balance was off, and I would fall down for no apparent reason," said Dorsey, who has seen improvements in these areas. "(Rock Steady Boxing) has changed my life."

Parkinson's is a progressive disease that affects movement. More than a million Americans are estimated to have Parkinson's disease, with as many as 10,000 patients living in Lancaster County.

Rock Steady Boxing is a nonprofit organization founded in Indianapolis in 2006. The method was developed when a victim of the disease realized that boxing with a friend helped relieve his symptoms. In 2012, a training camp was launched to help spread the treatment. Ludwig, who has been working with Parkinson's patients for about two years, completed the camp and received certification in the Rock Steady method.

Ludwig's mission to help Parkinson's patients began years ago when her grandmother was diagnosed with the disease. "My grandmother was told to go home and rest so as not to exert herself and exacerbate the condition," explained Ludwig, who added that the treatment had the opposite effect, and her grandmother became confined to a wheelchair. Ludwig has vowed to help patients overcome their symptoms through Rock Steady. "I won't let any of my people sit down," she said. "Parkinson's is like a dog chasing you, and if you sit down, it is going to catch you."

Ludwig described Rock Steady as a really focused program. "We train like fighters," she noted. "We glove up and wrap up, and we use heavy bags and speed bags." Rock Steady holds the line on sparring, however. "We never hit another person," Ludwig stated.

According to Ludwig, the classes can be adapted for any patient with Parkinson's. "I see everybody," she said. "I meet them where they're at and challenge them (because) what they think is impossible, I know is possible by getting them moving."

Don Pierce, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2004, has been taking classes from Ludwig for eight months. "My balance and posture are much improved," noted Pierce. "I am stronger, and my upper body seems to be doing quite well." Pierce added that he is now able to jump rope and do jumping jacks, and he is more flexible and has a better range of motion than before he started. "You can't stop the disease, but you can slow it with activity and counteract some of the effects," he said.

Rock Steady Boxing will be available at the Emerald Foundation Community Center beginning Wednesday, March 1. Those who wish to learn more about Rock Steady Boxing may visit http://www.rocksteadyboxing.org. Readers who have questions about the Lancaster program may email emerald@rsbaffiliate.com or call 271-3067.

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