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Muhammad Ali’s fight against Parkinson’s disease

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The first sign of Parkinson’s disease is usually trembling or shaking of different parts of the body, but over time people with the condition find it harder to move. The muscles stiffen and in severe cases patients will feel as though they are locked in position. The progression of the disease and its symptoms can be very rapid or quite slow and leads to other problems such as difficulty sleeping and depression.

Throughout the 1960s and the mid 1970s, before the disease was diagnosed, Ali mesmerized the world with his dynamic boxing style and larger than life personality. He was recognized for his fighting style, which he described as “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. His feet moved with a dancer’s grace, while his arms threw punches lightning-fast speed.

In the late 1970s, Ali’s signature gait in the boxing ring began to deteriorate. The athlete began to experience tremors, stiffness, and slowness of motion. Ali began showing symptom of the disease soon after retiring from the boxing ring in 1981; however his condition was not diagnosed until three years later. By that stage he had developed more severe tremors and his speech was slurred. Doctors prescribed medication which alleviated the worst of his symptoms.

Ali, who is now in his late 50s, has moved far beyond the boxing ring in both influence and purpose. He leads a more placid life, and since his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he has stated that he regrets nothing. The disease has made his walking very short and slow and he experiences speaking and balance problems. Although Parkinson’s syndrome has slowed Ali down, he still remains active raising money for the Muhammad Ali Foundation and frequently appearing at sports tributes and fund-raisers.

He again came in the public eye when 3.5 billion people watched him carry the Olympic torch to light the flame for the 1996 games, in Atlanta. His symptoms were evident and despite having lost the ability to smile, he appeared very cheerful and upbeat. Ali is now unable to speak in public.

According to his wife, Lonnie, Parkinson’s disease has made Ali a more spiritual person. “Muhammad believes God gave it to him to bring him to another level, to create another destiny,” she stated in People magazine.

Celebrities who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease include Muhammad Ali, Johnny Cash, Pope John Paul II and Michael J. Fox

Image attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Muhammad_Ali_NYWTS.jpg

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