In a few weeks there will be a tournament in Pittsburgh, PA benefiting the Parkinson Foundation of Western Pennsylvania. As you know there are more and more tournaments for players to choose from, but when a wonderful charity is benefiting, pickleball players should try to make it happen. If pickleball can help raise money, and more importantly manage symptoms then it’s a win-win.

Pickleball and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Do you know someone that loves pickleball and has Parkinson’s? I do, and so do my parents, Bob and Bev Youngren who teach pickleball at Happy Trails in Surprise, AZ during the winter. Over the years my dad has shared with me his experiences in keeping students (a few with PD) engaged and entertained while he teaches pickleball.

Let’s start with “WHY” pickleball works so well with Parkinson’s, and then I will share with you HOW TEACHING a student with Parkinson’s can be a gratifying endeavor.

But first, enjoy the following video of passionate pickleball player Andy Leighton who summarizes what pickleball does for him:

A few weeks ago Caitlin, a director at the Parkinson Foundation in Western Pennsylvania, contacted me about posting a story on my blog. She shared the following facts with me:

Playing pickleball is an outstanding therapy for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and their loved ones. Pickleball combines hand and eye coordination with simple movement that has helped thousands with Parkinson’s manage their symptoms and continue to live a normal life.

Benefits of pickleball for Parkinson’s disease:

Evidence continues to mount that regular exercise has a profound effect on managing Parkinson’s symptoms, both motor and non-motor. In the case of pickleball:

Symptom management
• Changes in length and speed of stride can improve shuffling gait
• Directional changes can improve balance and compensatory “righting strategies”
• Groundstrokes (trunk rotation) can improve axial rigidity
• Overhead strokes can improve extensor muscle flexibility
• The aerobic/cardiovascular aspect of pickleball can improve fitness, health and cognitive function

Other areas
• Weight bearing/impact of play can reduce risk of osteoporosis
• Exercise can improve gastrointestinal motility and reduce risk of constipation
• Reduced feeling of fatigue
• Elevated mood and perceived quality of life
• Improved sleep quality and quantity

Disease modification
Research also supports the mounting evidence that regular vigorous exercise can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease and help facilitate the establishment of compensatory neural pathways (neuroplasticity).

HOW to teach a pickleball student with Parkinson’s – as shared by Bob Youngren:

“As an instructor, you have to really study the person—see what is happening. When the student has a hand tremor, it’s always amazing to me that when they swing at the ball, the hand really flattens out. It doesn’t tremor. When I am teaching, I like to go up next to them…let’s say I’m showing them a groundstroke…. I actually gently hold on to their wrist or grab their hand on the paddle, and that usually stops the tremor. This way it’s much easier for me to teach, for example, the low to high swing rotation, shifting their weight, hips, shoulder motion….it comes to them much easier than if you just tell them how and let them do it. Touching their hands or wrists, in most cases, will stop the tremor.  I don’t feel it fighting against me at all.”

I hope this post sheds some light on Parkinson’s for you and how it might benefit your pickleball community. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area or can make it there, please join in the fun. GOOD LUCK to Andy and all the players!

For information on the upcoming tournament and fundraiser – http://pickleballclassic.org

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