Healthy Living

Muhammad Ali's Fight Against Parkinson's Continues Even After His Death

Muhammad Ali's Fight Against Parkinson's Continues Even After His Death

Photo: Muhammad Ali. Source: NBC News.

The most effective way to educate the public about a cause, specifically a disease or disorder, is through advocacy. There are many ways to become an advocate, but when it comes to advocating for a disease or disorder those who graciously and generously share their own personal story can make a significant impact. One of the most powerful examples of this is the enduring legacy of Muhammad Ali and his battle with Parkinson’s disease. 

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the nervous system.  Typically, it affects middle-aged and elderly people, however, in some cases it will hit at a younger age. Ali who likely developed the disorder early on in his boxing career was diagnosed at the age of 42 and lived with the disease for over 3 decades after his retirement from the ring.  Parkinson’s causes tremors, muscular rigidity and slow jerky movements. There are currently an estimated 1 million people living with Parkinson’s in the U.S. alone. 

Ali, groundbreaking advocate against Parkinson’s

Muhammad Ali was one of the first celebrities to publicly battle his fight with Parkinson's and he did so with grace.  Ali fought his battle with Parkinson’s like he did for all of his matches in the boxing ring: with confidence.  Never being one to shy away from the public eye, Ali openly discussed his condition and never once hid the tremors.  This is why Ali was not only a boxing legend, but also a pioneer in Parkinson’s advocacy.  His work continues today through the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center, even after his death in 2016.

Aside from the advocacy work that Ali did, he also became a leader in Parkinson’s research.  Today, Parkinson’s is a relatively well-known disease that is no longer mistaken for other neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, which was once a common misconception.

Ali not only laid the groundwork for Parkinson’s advocacy he also paved the way for other celebrities who are battling the disease to come forward, and the most notable of them are Michael J. Fox, Janet Reno, and Linda Ronstadt.  They have all, in their own way, helped the cause with their stories. While today, Michael J. Fox is considered to be the public face of Parkinson’s, and it’s safe to say that it was because of Muhammad Ali - the boxer who fought with heart in the ring and against the disease, who was the original advocate.