FORT WORTH, Texas. (KFSN) --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. But there's 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, Texas.
"These are total strangers that I would never run into; they have never seen me fight," Ayala said. "They're over here fighting their own battle, so I'm just happy that I'm able to help."
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.
"They were in a wheelchair six months ago, and now they are boxing Paulie," Roger Blair, MD Neurologist at Neurology Associates of Fort Worth. "If they can do it, I can do it, and in time, they will do it."
"I was doing one foot at a time, and then all of a sudden I picked up both feet and started jumping," Suzanne Maxwell said. "I haven't jumped rope since I was a teenager."
"It's tremendous," Jack Glaze, Parkinson's patient told Ivanhoe. "Paulie is a great coach. He doesn't cut us any slack."
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," Campbell said.
Former banking CEO Murray Zoota wants to grow Ayala's program nationally. "I always want to think in my mind that I'm knocking Paulie out,"Zoota explained. "I try to hit him sometimes as hard as I can."
"This works, and I'm not ever putting anybody in danger," Ayala said. "I'm not ever going to hurt anybody."
With a former world champ in their corner, these fighters are convinced they'll never have to throw in the towel against Parkinson's.
Ayala 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.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Roger Blair
(Shannon is the office manager)