In an effort to further its commitment to innovative treatments for patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), Good Shepherd Penn Partners has introduced a new program called Rock Steady Boxing (RSB).

Scott Newman, former Indiana prosecutor who was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD), founded the RSB program in 2006. Following his diagnosis, Newman reportedly noticed improvements in his physical health, agility, functional movements, and quality of life once he began to engage in one-on-one intense boxing sessions. To this end, Newman hired Kristy Rose Follmer, former world professional boxer, and opened up a boxing gym designed for individuals with PD. RSB has also developed a 3-day certification course in order to reach a wide range of clinicians, trainers, and individuals with Parkinson’s.

According to Joellyn Fox, DPT, lead therapist at The Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Rehabilitation Center/Penn Therapy and Fitness at Pennsylvania Hospital, after being introduced to the initiative of RSB at a conference, her colleague Heather Cianci, MSPT, GCS, wrote a grant to the Parkinson’s Council that was then awarded to their site. The grant was intended to fund the certification of the center’s physical therapists, the affiliation fee to Rock Steady, and the equipment required to implement the techniques as appropriate in patients’ plan of care. The funding also supported the facilitation of an exercise class offered to the community.

The class finds its roots in a current research trend that indicates high-intensity, high-frequency exercise serves as the foundation to promote brain change and fight the progression of disease. Research reinforcing the program’s ability to delay the progression of symptoms can be found, Fox says, in the principles of neuroplasticity define that specificity, repetition, and intensity matter (Kleim JA, Jones TA.  J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2008 Feb;51(1):S225-39).

“The framework of the RSB program offers just this,” Fox states, adding that, “Additional research conducted by Dr Stephanie Combs and Dr Dyer Diehl, the University of Indianapolis, has been published in both Physical Therapy and NeuroRehabilitation. From case series to randomized controlled trial, their research has shown short- and long-term improvements in people with PD with gait speed, endurance, balance and quality of life.”

Contraindications for the program call for medical clearance from an individual’s PCP in order for them to participate in the class. Participants are evaluated in order to be placed in the most appropriate class. Fox notes that current interest lies in two classes—one class designed for those diagnosed with YOPD and another class customized for individuals who have PD, are aged 65 years, and have a high level of fitness.

“Our site does not exclude, however,” Fox explains. “We have something for everyone. Our center also offers (and has for the last 12 years) a chair-based exercise program, which meets weekly. The current cap is 25 people, and we have a waiting list!”

The therapists at the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Center articulate their excitement to observe the results of pre- and post-testing for individuals who have committed to attend 12 consecutive weeks of RSB classes. The excitement stems from results seen from other boxing exercises/ protocols learned in RSB and integrated into individualized plans of care for patients engaging in physical therapy.

“A very clear trend that we are observing is compliance. People enjoy the boxing and because of that are more likely to perform what is [specifically] recommended for them to perform at home as part of their home exercise program,” Fox says.

Individualized use of the RSB exercises are also reported to have yielded increased amplitude of the affected upper extremity, as well as increased scapular range of motion and stabilization. RSB exercises are integrated into the plans of care as appropriate, in an effort to improve posture, endurance, balance, coordination, and gait.

The Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Center is scheduled to launch its first 60-minute RSB exercise class mid-April in recognition of Parkinson’s Awareness Month. The class will be held weekly on Wednesdays.

For additional information about the class, contact Joellyn Fox at (215) 829-5071

The Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Center features a team comprised of two PTs (Joellyn Fox, DPT; Heather Cianci, MSPT, GCS), one OT (Julia Wood) and one Speech Language Therapist (Meredith Pauly).

[Source(s): Jolleyn Fox, Good Shepherd Penn Partners]