Pingpong "significantly improves" Parkinson's symptoms in pilot study
In calling for sharp hand-eye coordination, alertness and quick reflexes, pingpong (or table tennis to its more serious practitioners) has come to be seen as a useful therapy for a number of ailments, in particular Alzheimer's, dementia and those associated with the brain. Researchers in Japan have turned their eye to its potential to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease, with a six-month preliminary study pointing to significant improvements in the participant's ability to carry out a variety of everyday tasks.
The study led by scientists at Japan's Fukuoka University involved 12 subjects with an average age of 73, all with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease diagnosed an average of seven years prior. At the beginning of the study, the researchers assessed the patient's symptoms to gauge their severity, before tasking each of them with a weekly pingpong session for five hours at a time.
These involved stretching sessions followed by pingpong exercises with an experienced player. These sessions were purposely designed for Parkinson's patients by the university's sports science department, with the subject's symptoms assessed after three months of therapy and then again at six months.
At both intervals, the participants exhibited "significant improvements" in their ability to carry out a range of tasks. These included speech, handwriting, dressing themselves, getting out of bed and walking. At the study's outset, the participants needed an average of two attempts to get out of bed, while that was reduced to just one at the study's end. Significant improvements were also observed in things like facial expression, posture, hand tremors and neck stiffness.
While enthused by these marked improvements, the researchers note that the study involved only a small sample size, and that it didn't involve a control group to compare symptoms among Parkinson's patients who did not play ping pong. They will look to address these points with further research, with plans underway for a national multi-center study.
“While this study is small, the results are encouraging because they show pingpong, a relatively inexpensive form of therapy, may improve some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” said Inoue. “A much larger study is now being planned to confirm these findings.”
The team is presenting its research at the American Academy of Neurology's 72nd Annual Meeting in April, while an abstract of the paper can be viewed online here.
Source: American Academy of Neurology