Fighters with Parkinson’s disease find new hope in boxing ring

Gregory Ritscher is a fighter.

"Learning to box, throw a good combination and hear those gloves pop gives you a great sense of self worth," he says.

The opponent that he's been fighting for years is a tough one - Parkinson's disease.

"I was 55," he recalls of his diagnosis. "That was April 26, 2011 at about 3:25 in the afternoon. You remember hearing things like 'you have Parkinson's.'"

Eventually, he found a way to fight back.

"Boxing has been shown in research to have a positive effect on reduction of symptoms, reductions of signs," explains Andrea Schmidt, a boxer and chairman of the board for Off The Ropes, a local nonprofit.

Schmidt works and trains at the Corner Boxing Club in Boulder, where they offer Parkinson's knockout classes through Off The Ropes.

"Several of our senior gloves members when they first came in, needed to have a cane to walk, needed assistance," she says. "As time has gone on, they don't need assistance as much, they're tremors have diminished. To see what they can do, it's just incredible."

"The instructors are so good and work with us, because people with Parkinson's have all different skill levels," adds Ritscher. "They adapt so quickly. The sense of community you get with boxing is immense."

Athletes unlike any others, who have found new strength as they continue to battle.

"Parkinson's is a disease that takes things away from you," says Ritscher. "It takes away your occupation, it takes away your ability to think clearly. Learning boxing was something new in my life and something that I was able to, in a way, beat the crap out of Parkinson's."

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