Physical Therapy Assistant Guide

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Physical therapist assistant treats Parkinson’s patients with boxing program

Growing Boxing Physical Therapy Program for Parkinsons Disease
Photo by Keith Ellwood

Muhammad Ali was no doubt a great man. His fights inside the ring, and outside the ring battling civil rights, were truly inspiring.

His fight with Parkinson’s disease was also inspiring, and it did not go unnoticed. Today, over 90 facilities across the United States are treating Parkinson’s patients with a boxing physical therapy program called “Rock Steady Boxing”.

Here are some more Rock Steady Boxing Videos


Although boxing to treat Parkinson’s may seem counterintuitive and many may think that boxing could actually cause Parkinson’s, that simply hasn’t been the case. The program allows for patients to spar with an instructor where the instructor takes all the punches, patients never hit each other or receive blows from an instructor.

Physical Therapy Assistant Scott Brubaker is a neurological program director at Comber Physical Therapy in Williamsburg and he recently began teaching the program to his Parkinson’s patients. This boxing PT program has proven effective at increasing strength and balance through intense therapy techniques while building mental strength and fighting the common Parkinson’s symptom of depression.

Patients enjoy the camaraderie in pushing themselves through intense boxing training together.

Brubaker describes the intense therapy well. He says,

“Intense-based exercise is the key to hopefully slowing the progression of the disease…but definitely improving the quality of life,”

And Scott doesn’t call his Parkinson’s patients, “patients” he calls them boxers, because his classes are full of fighters.

Parkinson’s disease is chronic and gets progressively worse over time. Symptoms become more severe making the disease debilitating. Researchers at the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation don’t know what causes the disease. They do know that it involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain. There is no known cure at this time and medications are available only for helping the symptoms but have no effect reversing the effects of the disease.

Although symptoms vary between each patient, they typically include slowed movement, tremors, impaired balance & coordination, as well as stiffness of the limbs and trunk. These physical symptoms are almost always paired with cognitive impairments. Patients often times find themselves experiencing memory problems and slowed thinking, and more easily distracted in stimulating environments.

Spending an hour punching speed bags or heavy punching bags, sparring with an instructor, jumping rope, and doing pushups helps to strengthen and increase balance in patient’s effected areas. The physical treatment is amazing, patients report reduced tremors from the boxing training, increased balance and walking ability, as well as increased confidence and happiness.

Many who live with Parkinson’s report increased stress and depression. For this reason a common part of treatment for Parkinson’s disease consists of group support therapy. However, not everyone is interested in participating in these support classes even though they may be helpful.

Rock Steady Boxing offers group support therapy, in disguise. It is the perfect setting for a group of Parkinson’s patients to get together and support each other through the toughest physical and mental training that they can handle. Without being called a support class, the boxing physical therapy program offers a support group for participating Parkinson’s patients.

Results from Parkinson’s Boxing Physical Therapy Program

Over 1 million American’s suffer from Parkinson’s disease. One Parkinson’s patient describes boxing as “the opposite of Parkinson’s disease”. He says putting the gloves on changes his perspective and feeling towards the world. Giving him the mental and physical courage that Parkinson’s took away from him.

The program is designed to show Parkinson’s patients how far they can push themselves. Forcing them to regain simple movements like walking ability and balance. It allows the Parkinson’s patients to not “feel” the disease anymore, at least for the hours they spend as fighting boxers.

Over a two year study of the boxing therapy program, not a single participant had any progression in the disease during this time. And in some cases, they had improved their function over the time of the study.

One patient who had really declined over 6 years with Parkinson’s joined Rock Steady after becoming a recluse who could barely walk. After 3 years of Rock Steady, he is better now than before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This is one of many success stories.

The idea is that the program offers neuroprotective help to your body. Neuroprotection help means that the program’s therapy is designed to aid in protecting neural structure and function in patient’s brains. This slows the effects of the disease, and as show in some cases even improves functions that have been debilitated.

PTs and PTAs Can Start Teaching Rock Steady Boxing Classes for Parkinson’s

The Rock Steady Boxing program is popular amongst its participants, and for good reason. The program is growing fast across the nation and more and more facilities are offering the classes also making it popular amongst the providers. From occupational therapists to Physical Therapy Assistants, many are jumping on board to help Parkinson’s patients through the Rock Steady Boxing therapy program.

If you are a PT or PTA, or other health professional, interested in learning more about starting your own Rock Steady Boxing program, then go here for more details. You will go through their 2 day training camp that will teach you the Rock Steady Method to fight Parkinson’s disease.

The training is geared towards personal trainers, occupational therapists, community centers, boxing coaches, rehab facilities, and anyone interested in starting classes in their community. Training will teach the boxing techniques, skills, and specific intense exercises that impact Parkinson’s.

Rock Steady Links:

  • Checkout the Rock Steady Boxing Training Camp PDF
  • Find more Training Camp Info here
  • Find a Rock Steady Boxing Certified Affiliate here

Are you a PTA treating Parkinson’s patients? Have you tried boxing techniques? Tell us about your experience in the comments below! 🙂


  1. I was diagnosed of Parkinson’s disease in June 2013. I was given medications like levodopa to slow down the progress of the disease. I suffered from this disease till i read online about a herbal doctor from Johannesburg, South Africa, who have herbal medicines to cure all kinds of diseases including Parkinson’s disease. I recommend researching natural treatment for parkinson’s disease versus taking the pharmaceutical drugs that only deal with specific symptoms and have damaging side effects to your body.

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