The world remembers Muhammad Ali for his staggering victories and inspiring career. But the greatest battle of his life isn’t so well known. In 1984, at the age of 42, the champion boxer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He spent the last 32 years fighting a long fight against the disease and working to increase public awareness about PD.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative brain disorder in the world. It begins in a small region of the brain known as the substantia nigra. This area of the brain controls neural communication through the release of dopamine. With Parkinson’s, the neurons are unable to produce dopamine and therefore can no longer communicate. Essentially, the brain stops communicating with the body’s muscles.
Muhammad Ali first began showing symptoms not long after retiring from boxing. Slowly, and then more progressively, he began to develop tremors, slowed movement, and slurred speech. Due to the violent nature of Ali’s boxing career, some speculate that repeated head injuries may have contributed to him developing the disease. Usually, however, cases of Parkinson’s develop with no known cause, and the disease progresses at an unpredictable pace. Over time, people with PD, like Ali, deal with stiffened muscles, difficulty sleeping and speaking, and depression. More recent studies read by the staff at Home Care Assistance El Dorado County indicate that Parkinson’s might be caused by a gene mutation.
Drugs are available to alleviate the worst of the symptoms by providing a synthetic form of dopamine. However, side effects of the medications include tics and jerks, common symptoms of the disease. Up until 2008, Ali remained active and in the public eye. He worked with actor Michael J Fox, who also has Parkinson’s disease, to raise awareness of the disease and appeared before Congress to speak on PD in 2002.
By 2009, Muhammad Ali was unable to speak in public. In 2012, he made his last major public appearance, bearing the Olympic Flag during the opening ceremonies of the London Summer Olympics. On June 3, 2016, he passed away after being hospitalized for a respiratory illness.
For more information on helping a senior loved one maintain a high quality of life while living with Parkinson’s, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our expertly trained Parkinson’s caregivers help seniors with everyday tasks, provide safety monitoring and mobility support, and offer emotional support and companionship in the comfort of home. Call our office at (916) 358-3801 and schedule a free in-home consultation.