Little Victories


May 23, 2024

Muhammad Ali and Parkinson’s: A Controversial Diagnosis

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By Juan Diego Drouet
Content Writter
Muhammad Ali, the boxing legend, has long been the subject of medical debates, especially regarding the contribution of his repeated blows to the head to his progressive tremor and cognitive decline. A new perspective, shared by three neurologists who cared for Ali for more than 20 years, sheds light on his final medical condition.

Professors Dr. Mahlon R. DeLong, Helen Mayberg, and Michael S. Okun have reviewed Ali's records, including physical examinations and PET images from 1995 until his death in 2016, and conclude that Ali suffered from early-onset Parkinson's disease. early, rather than a form of repetitive head trauma dementia. Their analysis, published in JAMA Neurology, adds a crucial piece to Ali's medical story.


Diagnosis and treatment

Ali responded clearly to levodopa, a medication commonly used to treat Parkinson's symptoms, which was documented in examinations performed in the 1980s. PET images showed patterns consistent with Parkinson's, including progressive bilateral striatal hyperactivity and striatal uptake. classic low. Repeated observations confirmed that his tremor, bradykinesia, and rigidity improved significantly with medication, meeting the criteria for a diagnosis of idiopathic Parkinson's.

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Deterioration and Consequences

Throughout his life, Ali showed classic symptoms of late-stage Parkinson's disease, including stooped posture, shuffling steps, postural instability, and falls. Neuropsychological tests indicated progressive deteriorations in frontal functions and memory, typical characteristics of Parkinson's.


Ali's case reinforces the importance of avoiding speculation about medical diagnoses without an in-person examination. Doctors conclude that although head trauma is a known risk factor for Parkinson's, a causal association cannot be determined in Ali's case. Her story serves as a reminder of the challenges and complexities inherent in Parkinson's disease and the need for an accurate diagnosis for proper treatment.

The revised diagnosis of Muhammad Ali as a case of early-onset Parkinson's disease, supported by clear and documented evidence, offers a more accurate view of his fight against the disease. This finding not only clarifies aspects of his personal history but also contributes to our understanding of Parkinson's disease and his relationship to head trauma.


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