CBSN just aired a segment on the Parkinson’s ping pong group I participate in every Wednesday night. Click here to view the segment, as I can’t embed it. It focuses on Nenad Bach, a musician who started playing ping pong to regain control of his hands so he could play the guitar and piano.
Nenad’s doctor, neurologist David Russel, says the rhythm and balance needed to play ping pong could be beneficial for Parkies. To quote him directly:
He [Nenad] clearly got better when he really kind of delved into ping pong. And it’s something we should look at, the way we look very scientifically at things like Tai Chi and tango dance. This would be an area worth exploring.
As I wrote before, the Wednesday night sessions work this way:
- First we (the Parkies as well as the instructors) stand in a circle and do warm-up, stretching and balance exercises.
- Next, two of the instructors demonstrate for a few minutes some technique that we need to learn, such as hitting the ball on a slant and sending it spinning in the air back to your opponent.
- After that, we pair up: each Parkie works one-on-one with one of the volunteer instructors.
- After five minutes, the Parkies rotate to a new instructor.
- At the end of the evening, the head instructors video tape each Parkie playing with one of the volunteer instructors for a few minutes; the videos are loaded onto YouTube so you can watch yourself and get a better sense of what you’re doing right and what you still need to work on.
Here’s a video of me (in the red and blue striped shirt and white shorts) playing with one of the instructors last August. We had been working on my forehand, and I’m trying my best to hit the ball by sweeping my racket upwards at an angle, not smacking the ball head-on.
Last August, about the same time this video was taken, I wrote a post entitled “Can You ‘Learn’ Yourself Out of Parkinson’s Disease?” The post summarized what I had gleaned from a 2013 Lancet article, which itself reviewed over 100 research studies that examined the effect of physical exercise on people with Parkinson’s, as well as on laboratory mice that had Parkinson’s-induced symptoms. Specifically, the article focused on two general types of exercise that the researchers found beneficial: (1) goal-based motor skill training, and (2) aerobic exercise.
To my mind, ping pong is another example of goal-based motor skill training (which includes tango lessons, tai chi, and boxing). I’m learning new ways to use my body, and the repetition is ingraining new kinds of movements so that they become habitual.
In addition, the people who show up on Wednesday nights (instructor and Parkie alike) are all friendly, helpful, and “on the ball.”
Update: For more press coverage on Ping Pong for Parkinson’s, click here: click!