The three- time world heavyweight boxing champion who developed Parkinson’s disease after his 21-year boxing career ended in 1981. A year later Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Although Ali exhibits classic Parkinson’s symptoms, it is likely that Ali’s form of the disease was brought on by the repeated blows to the head he sustained in his career as a boxer. Ali retreated to a fairly private life until 1996, when he emerged again as a public figure, this time to champion the cause of research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Ali became a spokesperson for the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. And as the final torchbearer who lit the Olympic flame at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, Ali became the face of Parkinson’s disease. His walk up the steps to the Olympic cauldron was painstakingly slow. When Ali reached out to touch his torch to the cauldron, 3.5 billion people around the world watched on television as the hands of the man once known as “The Greatest” shook with the characteristic tremors of Parkinson’s. The moment was one of the most moving in American sports, and it catapulted Parkinson’s disease into the public spotlight.
Although Parkinson’s has robbed Ali of his voice, he remains an outspoken advocate for Parkinson’s research. In 2002 he joined actor michaEl j. fox and others to testify before the U.S. Congress about the urgent need for additional funding and support, with his wife, Lonnie, speaking on his behalf. Ali founded and continues to support the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. For more information about the center and its activities, contact:
Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center
Barrow Neurological Institute
500 W. Thomas Road
Phoenix, AZ 85013
(602) 406-4931 or (800) 273-8182