LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Muhammad Ali's death is shining a spotlight on Parkinson's disease. The three-time heavyweight champ was diagnosed in 1984. Researchers are finding that the sport that complicated his disease, is actually helping those who are suffering from it.
Parkinson's is a progressive, degenerative neurological disease. There are medications that can relieve the symptoms, but exercise is the only treatment that has actually been proven to slow the progression. A program called Rock Steady at Core Combat Sports in Louisville is helping.
"My mom had Parkinson's," Core Combat Sports owner Rolando Haddad said. "So, it was easy for me to offer this."
In Rock Steady, participants with Parkinson's are stretching, working on their balance and punching to steady their tremors.
"It's kind of incredible, you'll see someone shaking really really bad and then all of a sudden they are on the heavy bag and their hands are flowing pretty well," Haddad said.
They're using professional boxing techniques, without taking punches themselves.
"We're using pad work and bag work," Haddad said. "We're not having contact. There is no trauma."
It's helping people like Greg Stevens who was diagnosed 15 months ago. Stevens was a general surgeon, but his symptoms made it impossible for him to do his job.
He's on a new mission at age 62.
"I'm trying to reinvent myself," Stevens said.
The class is empowering people with Parkinson's to fight back. David Hartman was a graphic designer and illustrator.
"Now, I'm almost a gym rat," Hartman said.
The class is three days a week and those who participate said they are already noticing a difference.
"Helps me stay coordinated," Hartman said.
"Balance and strength were problems before," Stevens said. "With this workout, the last two months I felt better in both regards."
The people in the class give it their all because that's what fighters do.
"You gotta keep your eye on the prize," Hartman said. "Not gonna lose, not gonna happen."
Rock Steady was founded in 2006 in Indianapolis. Core Combat Sports just recently started offering the classes. For more information, click here.