Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Muhammad Ali, one of the most famous boxers of all time, had humble beginnings. He was born Cassius Clay, Jr., on January 17, 1942, in Louisville , Kentucky. He began boxing at the age of 12, winning various Golden Glove titles, both locally and nationally. In 1960, he attended the Olympics in Rome and came away with the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the age of 18. Muhammad Ali is best known for his three "World Heavyweight Champion" titles.

As Muhammad Ali's boxing career started to wind down in the early 80's, he began to show signs of a neurological disorder. He had evident signs of decreasing motor skills during a fight against Larry Holmes in 1980. Parkinson's disease was diagnosed soon after...

It's been a point of controversy over whether or not Ali's Parkinson's-like affliction was the direct result of his boxing career or not...
 There are many people who believe that Ali would have developed his Parkinson's Syndrome if he had been an accountant or a librarian. That Ali's boxing career, which resulted in him taking numerous head shots and punishment over the years, had nothing to do with his affliction.
While there has never been a definitive study linking boxing-related trauma to that of the development of Parkinson's Syndrome or Parkinson's Disease, most in the medical community believe that in Ali's case there was a definite cause and effect relationship. When Ali was first diagnosed with Parkinson's Syndrome, he went through a battery of tests, first at the renowned Mayo Clinic, then at a series of other highly respected institutions. Ali's physical exams and tests indicated a surprising amount of abnormalities, all of which seemed to be boxing related. It was found that Ali had a hole in the membrane separating the two sides of his brain. While this type of abnormality is often congenital, being punched in the head repeatedly, if not causing such a condition, can certainly exacerbate and worsen it. Further complicating matters, Ali was shown to have a series of degenerative changes in his brain stem; a part of the brain that is linked with dopamine production, a neurotransmitter that is lacking in those afflicted with Parkinson's-like afflictions. Ali's brain stem was shown to be significantly damaged, and his attending physicians, in a statement released at Muhammad Ali's behest, stated that they believed Ali's brain damage to be boxing-induced.

Many people develop neurological problems in the absence of any outward cause or contributing factor. However, in Muhammad Ali's case, his Parkinson's Syndrome was likely caused as the result of repeated blows to the head which irreversibly damaged his brain stem. Ali's case was non-organic in nature; his affliction had its roots in boxing. Many in the boxing community have taken issue with that, but from a scientific stand point, their denials and doubts seem to be baseless.
Many, including Muhammad Ali's long-time ringside physician, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, state that boxing in and of itself is not the cause of Muhammad Ali's brain injuries, but rather, it was Muhammad Ali fighting for too long and fighting at an advanced age that resulted in his injuries. Those familiar with Ali's career know that he fought well-past his prime, and that in Ali's last two bouts before he retired for good, he took a bad beating from Larry Holmes, and he was whipped handily by Trevor Berbick. Ali took a heavy amount of head punishment in both of those bouts..
What is the truth? Which side is right? At best, the casual observer will have to look at both sides of the argument and use their better judgment in terms of arriving at a logical conclusion.

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