Punching Out Their PD Symptoms

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Registered: 03-28-2003
Punching Out Their PD Symptoms
Sun, 05-17-2009 - 8:11pm

Parkinson's patients in Indian River use boxing to whip symptoms


VERO BEACH — Eighty-three year-old Clara Hess of Vero Beach looks just like your grandmother.


Until she puts on her boxing gloves.


This gray-haired, soft-spoken senior citizen turns into "slugger" during a boxing class at the Alzheimer & Parkinson Association of Indian River County twice a month.


"When I go out with my friends, I ask them to guess what I do on Thursday mornings," laughed Hess, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease about five years ago. "Sometimes, I'm very unsteady on my feet and the boxing lessons have really helped me with that."


It was balance issues that brought 56-year-old Curtis Cousins to try boxing as well.


"I've been going to the exercise class they have here and someone suggested boxing," said Cousins, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease about four years ago. "While I walk and ride a stationary bike, I've never boxed before. I think it will definitely help me with my foot coordination."


ssociation Executive Director Carolyn Veeneman said Parkinson's commonly strikes people in the prime of life, causing tremors and robbing the body of its ability to move. "Boxing helps with their balance," she said. "But it also strengthens the muscles in their arms and legs as well."


Boxing instructor Dan Kadem has volunteered his time at the class for the past seven weeks and said his Parkinson's students are improving at a rapid pace.


"I was a little apprehensive at first but I thought I would give it a shot," admitted Kadem. "And what I discovered was that the people here are really no different from the students at my gym. I don't see any signs of the Parkinson's disease, and they learn the techniques very easily. It's fun and I enjoy it."


Kadem starts students off with footwork, gradually teaching them how to throw punches and, most importantly, to duck. "Don't reach for the punch, just throw it out there," Kadem told Cousins as he tried to answer a right jab. "Otherwise, you're throwing off your balance and you can fall."


When it came time to spar with Hess, Kadem told her she had one of the strongest punches in the room. "Nice, nice, beautiful, we've got a killer here," said Kadem. "But just remember that in the long run, the punches don't really matter. If you don't watch your feet, you're going to fall over."


Rob McNary, 71, of Vero Beach came to the class accompanied by his caregiver Bobby Esteves, 69, who also tried his hand at some of sparing exercises. McNary said boxing was the last thing he would have ever thought he'd be doing after his Parkinson's diagnosis two years.


"People think that boxing is so rough and tumble," said McNary, who was a landscape architect before his retirement. "But it's really more like dancing. You learn the moves and then you just go through with it."

Lauren Sue