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SPARRING WITH PARKINSON’S Region’s first noncontact boxing program for the degenerative disorder gives patients mobility and hope

Parkinson’s disease patient Quentin Feitner (back, right) has seen signifi cant improvement – physically and emotionally – since joining the noncontact Rock Steady Boxing of the Lehigh Valley program at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network in Allentown.

While telling the story of the struggles he faced after given the hard news three months ago that he had Parkinson’s disease, 68-year-old Quentin Feitner’s voice quivered and one of his hands feverishly trembled.

While telling the story of the struggles he faced after given the hard news three months ago that he had Parkinson’s disease, 68-year-old Quentin Feitner’s voice quivered and one of his hands feverishly trembled.

Within 10 minutes, however, Feitner was able to bring under control the tremors and juddering – just two of the symptoms of the degenerative movement disorder that has overtaken his life.

That progress is thanks to the 90-minute, twice-a-week training sessions he is taking at Rock Steady Boxing of the Lehigh Valley. A boxing training program for Parkinson’s patients founded in 2006 in Indianapolis, it debuted in February at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network in Allentown as the first Greater Lehigh Valley affiliate and only the third in Pennsylvania.

Initial indicators are that the innovative sessions are working, as patients appear to be improving their posture, gaining mobility and dexterity and finding an increase in energy levels.

It’s all a bit of irony when one considers the cultural – and unproven – belief that boxing legend Muhammed Ali’s Parkinson’s disease was brought on by the years of excessive blows he took to the head during his career.

The Rock Steady Boxing program, however, involves no contact. Instead, it emulates the noncontact forced-intensive exercises that a boxer uses during training, which studies prove are the kind of movements and skills that can help offset and control symptoms of Parkinson’s, including deteriorating motor skills and sensory functions.

“I’ve come a long way on my physical ability to cope with just about anything,” said Feitner, who lives in central Pennsylvania.

Before Rock Steady, tremors prevented him from feeding himself. But since being in the program, he has seen significant improvement both physically and emotionally, and can once again comfortably hold a fork in his hand.

“It has given me hope and focus,” Feitner said. “I can sleep at night.”

Feitner’s story began last winter after suffering three treacherous falls while working on his farm and confectionary just outside Lewisburg. He also was dealing with a diminishing physique and a posture bent over to the point where his arms, when raised, were parallel with the ground.

Jennifer Glose
Reporter Jennifer Glose covers health care, Berks County and other topics. She can be reached at jenniferg@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 111.

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