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There are many reasons why attending Ping Pong Parkinson sessions are important for PwP (people with Parkinson’s Disease). We have been emphasizing our targeting motor symptoms (stiffness, slowness, tremors, balance) with our eclectic mix of physical activities (ping pong, juggling, various exercises). But let us not forget that Parkinson’s is a non-motor disease as well as a motor disease, and that there are distressing comorbid neuropsychiatric complications (depression, hallucinations, panic attacks, apathy, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, cognitive decline, psychosis). For PwP, these non-motor conditions can be even more difficult to deal with than the movement problems – and they are fairly common. For example, the National Institute of Health has estimated that between 40-50% of patients with PD suffer from “clinically significant depressive disturbances” (from an article published in 2013). In the journal “Parkinson’s Disease,” they published a prevalence range that on the upper limit approached an unnerving 90%! (but with an average of 35%).
But there are other matters which are more obscure, and which don’t necessarily show up on the statistic pages and they, too, deserve our attention. Let’s take the more abstract idea of loneliness, for example. People who are socially isolated (PwP and anybody else) actually endure a ‘painful’ existence. There have been scans (PET scans) which show that pain sensitive areas of the brain light up in these lonely people and for those who are depressed. It is probable that the arrows of causation are reciprocal with these two conditions – that depression may lead to social isolation, and the converse, that loneliness (isolation) may lead to depression. Research also keeps reminding us that these conditions are not just confined to the emotional realm, that they lead to physical deterioration. When a person is stressed, his/her health worsens, relating to immunity and other biochemical changes. Health and quality of life decline.
So, what to do. Remember the movie the Shawshank Redemption? Remember this line? “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Those are the words of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) delivered to his friend Red (Morgan Freeman). The meaning is really simple. It means do something, bunky! Our weekly sessions may not be enough, but meeting people and engaging in physical activity is certainly a good start for body and mind.
Oh, and I almost forgot, get a dog. Lao Du
The answer is no. And you don’t have to know related principles about the increasing speeds in fluids causing decreasing pressures and the like, either, just in case you were curious about that, too. (Editor: that’s Bernoulli’s Principle.) Suffice to say, that dolts, dullards and dunderheads can still hit a ping pong ball without having any idea whatsoever about what keeps it on the table. However, since there are some curious human beings among us – enquiring minds would like to know – (my broker is EF Hutton), I’ll supply you with the dope on this subject. (Editor: He’s qualified; takes one to be able to dispense the dope.) (Lao Du: Dutiful readers, these editorial interjections are beyond my control. I apologize for the interruptions. Kindly proceed.)
Ever heard of alpha-synuclein? Ever heard of Lewy bodies? They’re proteins (actually, Lewy bodies consist of alpha-synuclein). These abnormal deposits develop in brain cells and are now believed to most likely be a cause of the symptoms seen in Parkinson’s Disease – including dementia.
There is some confusion out there regarding these “clumps,” because Lewy Body Dementia is related to Parkinson’s Disease (overlaps), but is a separate entity. The confusion arises because it’s often difficult to diagnose both of these neurodegenerative disorders and to distinguish between the two. For example, it’s my understanding that Robin Williams, the late actor and comedian, was initially diagnosed with PD but that the true nature of his pathology was not learned until an autopsy revealed that he had suffered from Lewy Body Dementia which mimicked Parkinson’s. The difference between the two lies in the distribution of these protein deposits, being more widespread in LBD and confined to the midbrain in PD.
Dementia is an insidious threat that looms over PwP (people with Parkinson’s Disease), but there is some good news. In the last year or two, there has been research which has definitively shown that exercise (yes, exercise!) can “stop” (that’s the word the researchers used) the buildup of the damaging agent – the dreaded alpha-synuclein. In addition to cognitive improvement, motor symptoms also improved.
The take home message from this new research is clear: There’s more to Parkinson’s treatment than Levodopa. Exercise has to be a part of the PD regimen. Lao Du
Part V: (This portion of the “Evolutionary History of Ping Pong” has been expunged. Lao Du wishes to particularly express his apologies to those using sandpaper rackets for this unforeseen development.)
Editor’s Note: After careful consideration, and with no desire to squelch or censor free speech and first amendment rights, a decision has been made to foreclose the final edition (Part V) of Lao Du’s alleged history of ping pong. This judgement, to forbid the publication of this fifth component of his vitriolic screed, was made because of his insensitivities and slurs against the native Indian population. For example, Lao Du cast several aspersions against the Commanchees, to wit:
In the Bronze Age (beginning 3000 BC), the rackets were so heavy you needed two hands to hold them, thus leading to a rather bizarre and unhygienic spitting of balls from the mouth in order to serve and to begin a point. The calamitous result of this yucky development led to infections and disease, of which The Black Plague or Black Death was the most virulent. It came about as a result of bacterial transfer onto the ball while playing ping pong (Yersinia pestis, the offending bacterium). It is estimated that this hideous illness killed off 30% to 60% of Europe’s population, including most players rated below 1700. Higher ranking players (2100 and above) were provided with Purell in freebie gift baskets, and most survived the various epidemics but only to succumb to an even greater scourge – ITTF regulations (which required these elite athletes to buy expensive, unaffordable rackets which left them destitute and lacking money for food). Yes, indeed, ping pong in those years was not the placid sport of the basement 1950’s. It was lethal! The average life span of a ping pong beginning or intermediate level competitor was 2-3 months (and there were no partial refunds on annual club memberships, as the prorated concept in insurance was not yet available in the Dark Ages).
Part III: The Lamentable Spongezoic Era (Editor’s note: This gets freakier and freakier) (Lao Du: It’s just the truth, so help me.) (Editor: Okay, we’ll help you.)
The Paleozoic era saw little improvement or modification in ping pong rackets. The fossil record shows that the blade might have increased by one ply over the course of 300 million years. It was truly deep into the Triassic and Jurassic that the paddle reached today’s recognizable laminated form with the arrival of the newer synthetic sham trick rackets used by most modern-day ping pong hustlers. About 230 million years ago, a larger ball – in this case, a 44mm rat instead of a 40 mm mouse – was also adopted officially, in order to slow down the monotonous 3 ball game (serve, return, put away) that had accompanied the latest Paleozoic technological advances.
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