Tennis Anyone?

Tennis seems to be the perfect exercise to help PD – the hand-eye coordination, sudden quick movements, the thinking process used to execute a shot.  Jan Jackson

Tennis has been one of my passions since I was a child, playing with wooden tennis rackets that we had to store in a wooden frame to keep them from

Image result for billie jean king wooden tennis racket
I wish I still had this racket!

warping. My earliest tennis idol was Billy Jean King and I even had a Billy Jean King tennis racket. When Mr Twitchy and I moved to Los Angeles, playing tennis was an easy way to meet new people.

Eventually the wooden tennis racket gave way to the new lighter graphite rackets in the 80’s and my tennis game improved. My tennis idols and my rackets have changed over the years and I have been fortunate to have attended 3 of the 4 Tennis Open tournaments in the last 10 years. I am hoping that I will be able to get to the fourth, the French Open, in the next few years.

When we moved to a new house and new school for our kids, tennis was again the intro to new friends. In fact, I have been playing in a regular game for over 25 years with three other women whom I met at the elementary school Tennis Tournament Fundraiser so long ago. They are my friends, my confidants.

After my tremor started 10 years ago, they were the first to know about it. When it was difficult to talk about my Parkinsons diagnosis, they were the ones who were there for me, refusing to let me take the easy way out and quit playing tennis. When I told one doctor about them, his advice was to “keep those friends”.  That was the easiest doctor’s order I have ever followed. Tennis has literally kept me going through the worst of times with PD. It hasn’t always been easy. My stamina and balance vary from week to week, my feet don’t always move as well as they should and I frequently lose my grip on my racket for no reason. I have often thought about finding a way to glue my racket to my hand so that I can’t lose my grip.

My photo of Rafa at Wimbledon, 2010

So I was not surprised to see a website about Tennis and PD posted by PD blogger, Gary Sharpe, about the benefits of tennis for Parkinson’s from a program titled  Educational Tennis For Parkinson.  The only problem is that the article is in Italian!  Fortunately, Google translate came to the rescue.  From their website comes this description of their program:

Tennis by many scholars is considered the most complete sport. The Educational Tennis Program for Parkinson ® program specifically designed and created for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease in the initial and intermediate phase, tends to help them to carry out a sport activity whose main objectives are: to develop cognitive skills, to stimulate the motility of everything the body, develop the coordination, stimulate the respiratory system, stimulate concentration, develop automatisms, develop the metabolic function, favor the reappropriation of a serene relationship with one’s physicality, enhancing one’s own potentiality, support for an improvement in the quality of life . (please excuse grammatical errors, this is directly from the Google translation)

Whew!  That is quite an ambitious statement!  I love the “serene relationship” part.  Overall, I agree with them totally.  Tennis is a great total workout for you, requiring hand-eye coordination (not always easy with PD), quick movements and lots of concentration.

Sharpe also posted an article by Jan Jackson, a woman with PD who plays 🎾, this time in English.   She put into words exactly what it has felt like for me playing tennis with PD.  She increased the amount of time she plays tennis because of PD.  On the other hand, I had decreased my playing to once a week because I found that there was little extra time for tennis in addition to my regular daily exercise programs (yoga, boxing, etc.)  However, I have recently added a second day of tennis, with a “Live Ball”* clinic at the club we belong to, that has really helped improve my game with PD.  I am hoping to be able to add another day of tennis to my workout schedule sometime soon.

My hope is that I will continue to play tennis with my friends, Gayle, Martha and Lenore,  for many more years to come.  Thank you for being there for me all these years.

*Live Ball is a fun doubles king/queen of the courts-type game played where tennis balls are fed by a tennis pro to start points instead of serves.

One response to “Tennis Anyone?”

  1. Dear Sharon Krischer , I got to read your blog where you refer to an “tennis enyone?” article. You telling your life experience with tennis for over 25 years and the relationship you have with this game even now that for over 10 years you are a PD. Certainly for you it is not easy to accept this relationship with tennis as you see a regress of the type of game because your balance is becoming precarious or the grip of the racket is not as solid as before. I am the founder of the Educational Tennis for Parkinson, my name is Gianni Zullo and I train several people with an adapted tennis program studied in detail to ensure that those who follow my program can slow down the progress of the disease. It makes me immensely pleased to know that you agree with what is written on the site of the program presentation and that you have reported, even with the translation of google, in English. Of course, the site is written in Italian. Currently this program is developing in Italy and it’s unique in its kind in terms of form and content. I have already noticed, however, that it’s gathering many favorable adhesions outside our country as well as your case showing me.
    Certainly as soon as it has reached a stage of wider notoriety in Italy, the website will also have a version in other languages such as English and Spanish. Keep in mind that this program was born only a year ago and the first goal was to apply it to a large number of people with Parkinson’s who have never taken a tennis racket in their hands in their lives. To date, everyone has had benefits and some of them are witnessing, both in the testimonianze page in the video gallery page, their positive results and the benefits they are getting from this program. Together with doctors we are creating scientific documentation of the benefits that are drawn from it.
    This is another concrete voice in addition to how today the various motor activities can help people with Parkinson’s disease. We don’t teach the classic tennis that you learn at any club, we don’t teach to become tennis agonists, we teach to use all the residual resources that each PD owns and that are only its own and are not the same as another in order to favor the high cognitive, physical, intellectual content necessary to stimulate our brain because it continues to produce neurons. Very few other sports are able to offer this. Tennis is one of the few sports that is played by children until late age. We don’t put Parkinson’s on KO but we keep him out of the court, to date there is not yet something that can eradicate it but we can; as a tennis player does, keep the opponent off the field by slowing his descent to the net. To date with this opponent the PD must play a lifetime. In your case where you had achieved a good level of play today you see a regression in terms of game quality, but if you put yourself with another mental vision, what you are doing is helping you to keep away from the mister parkinson network
    Remember 10,000 balls hit tennis are never the same, every shot is different from another, so your brain will always be active and will not atrophy.
    Considering the distance, to date physically I can not help you but my suggestion is: do not give up, keep playing with Gayle, Martha, Leonore and others, do as Francisco Segura famous tennis player of the years 40-50 and coach of Jimmy Connors and Agassi and other Hollywood stars he was hit by Parkinson’s disease, he died last year at the age of 96, he ran the tennis courts until the end
    If you have the chance to visit Italy contact me.
    A hug

    Dr Gianni Zullo

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A Note To My Readers

I love to see your comments and get your emails as we share our collective experiences. But based on a couple of private questions from some of you, remember, I am just a lay person and a patient like the rest of you. For medical and similar advice, you need to talk to your own doctor

Twitchy Woman

Twitchy Women partners with the Parkinson’s Wellness Fund to ensure we have the resources to offer peer support for women with Parkinson’s.