We are Ping Pong Parkinson, a 501 c3 non-profit organization located at the Westchester Table Tennis Club, 175 Tompkins Avenue, Pleasantville, New York (approximately 35 miles north of New York City). We were established officially on the first of March 2017 with the goal of halting the progression of Parkinson’s Disease by utilizing ping pong as a form of physical therapy. Our model is based on the concept of neuroplasticity – the brain’s capacity to make new neurons and connections through challenging physical exercise. Although medication remains the focus in the treatment for Parkinson’s, there is compelling evidence for the need for a regular exercise program in managing this disease.
The original idea behind this commitment to help Parkinson patients (“Pongers”) attain an improved quality of life through exercise was inspired by Nenad Bach, a Croatian-American musician and rock star. Nenad had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and noticed that his motor symptoms and mood were improved by playing ping pong. This non-pharmacological approach to his treatment was encouraged by his neurologists who confirmed his improved status. Nenad subsequently recruited several volunteers from the club, including Will Shortz, the crossword editor of the New York Times and the owner of the Westchester Table Tennis Club; Dr. Art Dubow, who together with Nenad created the PPP program; plus Irene Silbert, a PR professional – all working together to establish the PPP group.
The group meets for an hour every Wednesday at 7:30. The sessions begin with a warm-up consisting of physical exercises designed specifically for those with Parkinson’s Disease. Juggling practice and instruction follows before commencing the table tennis. Each “Ponger” is teamed with a volunteer at the tables and play is finally concluded with a video to chronicle each individual’s ping pong skills and progress.
Every three months there is scheduled a special informal dinner event, which can range from a tournament to having speakers give talks on topical subjects relating to PD. We have also established an annual tournament in which we hope to attract contestants from the US and internationally.
Our goal remains steadfast: To help anyone with Parkinson’s Disease through ping pong (primarily) – and to have fun while doing it.
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I Introductions – 5 minutes
A: Welcome new people; indicate the session number
B: Formal introductions; in a circle, everyone projecting his/her voice
D: Optional: Parkinson medical news updates
II Exercises 8-10 minutes
1 Yoga related
- Deep, relaxing breaths with hands slowly carried overhead (inhale), and down (exhale); Repeat 3-5 times
- Neck exercises: Turn left, right, circular rotations; chin tuck (touching chest)
- “Pistol of Love” – weight on heels, hands forming pistol carried overhead, stretching toward ceiling while looking up at ceiling, done while leaning backwards. Repeat 2 times.
- “Pistol of Love” – formed this time behind back; arms down, stretching down. Repeat 2 times.
- Shake out hands; arms thrust forward
- Finger grips – with arms extended horizontally, fingers flexed
- Finger taps – thumb touching each finger, both hands simultaneously.
- Wrist rotation – with arms thrust forward in horizontal position, rotate wrists back and forth (abduction/adduction).
- Dual tasking; leader calls out lunges by the clock (e.g., 2 o’clock = right leg lunge forward at 45 degrees).
4 Torso twist (with or without ping pong paddles)
- lateral and medial rotations, 180 degrees, five times
5 “Ping Pong Pick-up”
- modified deep knee bends with support of one hand on one knee (alternating) as the opposite hand touches floor; reverse hands; 2 times
- Standing tree, airplane, Romberg – one foot lined up behind the other; eyes open, eyes closed; hold position (stance) for 3-5 seconds.
- Jumping jacks, knee lifts in place (touching elbow to knee while raising leg); straddles (back and forth laterally
8 Ping Pong Coordination exercises
- Bounce ball off racket 10 times, dominant and non-dominant hands.
- everse hits – 10 times while alternating hits on both sides of the racket
- Big bounce (high bounce) off racket and then allowing ball to stop bouncing while controlling racket.
- Walking while bouncing ball on racket.
III Ping Pong Demonstration
an instructional block, 3-5 minutes a different facet of table tennis demonstrated each week (e.g., forehand push, backhand topspin)
IV Main Ping Pong Session
approximately 45 minutes consisting of 3 or 4 rotations
- Singles tables, doubles, robot table, instructional table (one on one instruction for those Pongers starting out)
- Boxing bag – instructor calls out jab, cross or uppercut with left or right hand (a dual task activity)
- juggling (with an instructor), light weight lifting (with an instructor).
Weekly Ping Pong Parkinson at WTTC