Chicago hospital using martial arts to treat Parkinson's disease

We all know karate is a martial arts discipline that is also a great form of exercise. But what about using it as a treatment for a debilitating disease?

One local hospital is taking an unusual approach to treating Parkinson’s disease.

Patients at Rush University Medical Center are kicking away the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by practicing Karate. It all started as part of a clinical trial to see if the kicks and movements of Karate could benefit Parkinson’s patients. It was a 10-week study in which the patients trained in Karate twice a week.

"We found a significant change in how often people were falling which is wonderful, that's a huge predictor of problems and it's a big risk factor in people with Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Jori Fleisher.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and can include tremors, stiffness, trouble walking, and it can also affect facial expression and speech. There is no cure, but medications can make a big difference and research has shown regular aerobic exercise might reduce the risk.

But the study from Rush is the first of its kind to actually look at the benefits of Karate and Parkinson’s.

One of the things that patients learn is how to properly fall.

John Fonseca is the owner of Fonseca Martial Arts. His company has partnered with Rush for the study.

"Karate has large movements and challenges peoples balance and coordination. It's a total body workout. What you do on one side, you do on the other,” Fonseca said.

One unexpected surprise from the study is the sense of community it created. Once strangers, the patients came together to fight a debilitating disease that can often leave its victims feeling secluded and alone.

For more information: Click here or call (312) 563-2900 (Press 4/Code: Karate)