CORDOVA, TN (WMC) - Boxing could now be more than a sport, it could be a medical breakthrough.
Workouts for the sport that pits well-trained athletes against each other in the ring could soon change the quality of life for Parkinson's patients.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that causes deterioration of motor functions, balance, and speech. Boxing workouts fight those symptoms by increasing dopamine levels in the brain.
"I want them to come back and say 'Hey, I can do stuff I used to be able to do, and I haven't been able to do,'" Cheryl Schlitt, owner UFC Gym Cordova, said.
Schlitt brought the national Rock Steady program to her Cordova UFC gym over a year ago.
The results have been tremendous.
"I had a man come in with a cane, he doesn't walk with a cane anymore," Schlitt said.
For some patients, it's had tremendous results.
"Before I started this, I could hardly walk," Benny Eldred, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's 13 years ago, said. "Now, I can walk around and I can do stuff."
Schlitt pushes the boxers to their limit with strength exercises and agility drills. Despite their age, things get pretty intense.
"Oh, they're pretty ferocious. You have to watch it; they're very competitive," Schlitt said.
More than exercise, the boxers encourage each other and share the successes and struggles of their disease.
They said it gives them something to look forward to and motivates them to keep going when they want to stop.
Even though they'll never get in the ring for battle, they're fighting for their lives against an unseen and unstoppable opponent.
Rock Steady Boxing is offered in four gyms.
To find the one closest to you, click here.