Listen to Your Trainer

November 5, 2021

by Dave Ciaccio, Board Chair

I recently watched the PBS series on Muhammad Ali directed by Ken Burns. As always, Burns created a moving story about ‘The Greatest’ heavyweight boxer of all time. On October 29, 1960, Cassius Clay won his first professional fight. Over the next two decades, he went on to amass 56 wins with only 5 losses.

In 1979, Ali’s trainer noticed his speed, flexibility, and endurance declining and urged him to stop fighting. Ali didn’t listen. He entered the ring on October 2, 1980, and was soundly defeated. He retired the following year, finally following the advice of his trainer.

It was revealed after the fight that Ali had been examined at the Mayo Clinic, and the results were shocking. He had admitted to tingling in his hands and slurring of his speech. Although Ali’s doctors disagreed about whether his symptoms were caused by boxing and whether or not his condition was degenerative, he was ultimately diagnosed with Pugilistic Parkinson’s syndrome.

Many of us are blessed to have an excellent Parkinson’s support team with highly educated doctors and researchers guiding us. They are our trainers, providing guidance and tools to help us stay ahead of our opponent. Sometimes we think we know better. We’re the ones in the ring fighting this complicated disease. But just like “The Greatest”, we can’t go it alone. We have to find it in us to set aside our pride and listen to our trainers.