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Inside Muhammad Ali’s Long Battle with Parkinson’s

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Muhammad Ali was considered by many to be the greatest boxer who ever lived. Even with his triumphs in the boxing ring, he was still afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, proving that even the most elite athletes are just as human as everyone else. In spite of his ongoing battle with the condition, Muhammad Ali maintained his strength of character and undeniable charisma. 

The End of an Era

Ali decided to end his boxing career in 1981 after capturing numerous titles that included an Olympic gold medal and three world heavyweight championships. It was shortly after his retirement that he began noticing early symptoms of Parkinson’s. Dr. Martin Ecker was initially convinced that Ali did not have Parkinson’s in spite of shuffled steps, slurred words, and other early warning signs that were starting to appear. It was not until 1984 that Ali would be diagnosed as having Parkinson’s.

Possible Causes


Like with all other cases of Parkinson’s, the exact cause of Ali’s condition could never be determined. Some suspected his condition was caused by the numerous blows he took to the head while boxing, but this cannot be proven. It is also believed that a past viral infection or metal toxicity contributed to his Parkinson’s.

Declining Health


According to Fairfield senior care professionals, symptoms vary greatly and advance differently for every patient. As the years progressed, Ali’s speech and fine motor skills became greatly impaired. He developed uncontrollable muscle tremors but was able to relieve some of his symptoms by taking medications. His brother reported that Ali had lost his ability to speak in his final days. Ali’s death on June 3, 2016, from septic shock was caused by a respiratory illness, which may have been exacerbated by his Parkinson’s.

Muhammad Ali’s life and death have shed more light on Parkinson’s disease and how the condition can affect a person’s quality of life. This attention may help spur the development of more effective Parkinson’s treatments and eventually lead researchers to finding a cure.

If your aging parent could benefit from additional support at home, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our experienced Parkinson’s caregivers in Fairfield help with everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning, provide transportation to appointments mobility support, and offer companionship and emotional support. Call our office today at 203-955-1915 and schedule a free in-home consultation.