Muhammad Ali: What Exactly Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

    Muhammad Ali punching in a purple shirtMuhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.) is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers, as well as one of the most celebrated athletes, in sporting history. Sadly, he was diagnosed with a degenerative disorder called Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in 1984 at the age of 42.

    Because his is one of the most high-profile cases of Parkinson’s, there are a lot of questions surrounding his condition. Is boxing responsible? Did repeated blows to his head lead to the disease?

    Many people know about Parkinson’s. But most are confused about what exactly causes it.

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    What Causes PD?

    According to the National Parkinson Foundation, 50,000-60,000 new cases of PD are diagnosed each year, adding to the one million people who currently have PD. Most people who get the disease are older than 60, but about 15 percent are diagnosed before age 50.

    Although doctors don’t know what exactly causes Parkinson’s, they believe it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, in about 5 to 10 percent of patients, there is a strong family history of the disease.

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