Muhammad Ali’s daughter recalls boxer’s first Parkinson’s signs – ‘he was kind of lost’
Alison Hammond reveals her dad was Muhammad Ali’s bodyguard
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Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 42 but his daughter Maryum Ali has recently shared how the star showed typical symptoms of the condition during a fight with Leon Spinks in 1978 when he was 36. Muhammad Ali, who is likely the world’s most celebrated boxer, died in 2016 from the condition.
Ms Ali, 53, said that the star’s speech was slurring – a common sign of early Parkinson’s disease, according to Mayo Clinic.
“I was so little [during the fight]. I remember seeing a difference in his speech when he fought Leon Spinks the second time actually,” she told Spectrum NY News.
“It was just the slurrness…
“They did a study on my father years ago saying that’s exactly when his speech started to slur.”
“It was during that fight.”
Ali was defeated in his second fight with Spinks, which became known as one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
There are other theories that suggest that the boxer’s speech started slurring even earlier than this fight. Jonathan Aig, author of the biography Ali: A Life, was part of a study that found the star’s speech slowed 16 percent after a 1977 fight.
In a fight against Earnie Shavers, Muhammad Ali absorbed a whopping 266 punches.
Ms. Ali also suggested that because of a lack of research, the Ali family believed the disease was going to be short-lived. She also recalled how her father was “kind of lost” in these early years.
“A lot wasn’t known about Parkinson’s back then, as it is now. We have great research now. People know what it is. Great therapies,” she said.
“But back then he was kind of lost and was told he had Parkinson’s syndrome and then it wouldn’t progress… but it did.”
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive condition that causes the body’s nervous system to become dysfunctional.
It occurs when nerve cells in a part of the brain responsible for the movement of dopamine in the brain are lost. This dopamine is vital for regulating the body’s movement. As a result, over time it limits the movement of the sufferer.
Despite Muhammad Ali eventually dying from the disease, Ms. Ali said it “wasn’t a death sentence” as she reflected on how his father was able to adapt to the disease with the increase in knowledge around the subject.
“There was a learning curve. He learned a lot. The more education he had about it, the more the family understood it the better he could help himself and we could help him and therapies improved.
“You know it wasn’t a death sentence. He lived with Parkinson’s for over 30 years and had a full life.”
Researchers now know that there are specific genetic mutations that can cause Parkinson’s disease – although these are rare, according to the Mayo Clinic.
They also know that there are “gene variations” that appear to increase the risk of the disease, as well as exposure to certain environmental factors like toxins.
Ms Ali described remaining uncertain about exactly what caused her father’s condition, whether it was related to boxing or genetics.
“You never know, it could be a combination of the head trauma or maybe the fact that he was exposed to lead paints when he was younger. So you just kind of never know,” she said.
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