Ask Prof: Does Muhammad Ali have Parkinsons or Alzheimers? What’s the difference? – with Links

Student asked me this a couple days ago. Parkinsons and Alzheimers are easily confused, although they have different primary signs and symptoms. (tangent: do you know the clinical difference between a sign and a symptom?)

Muhammad Ali, the famous boxer, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984. It’s a disease that’s common to head trauma from activities like boxing.


Parkinsonism (also known as Parkinson’s syndromeatypical Parkinson’s, or secondary Parkinson’s) is a neurological syndrome (not the specific disease) characterized by tremor, rigidity, and postural instability: can’t stand well. The underlying causes of parkinsonism are numerous, and diagnosis can be complex.

Compared with ALZHEIMER’S

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease, is the most common form of dementia – can’t remember things. The cause and progression of Alzheimer’s disease are not well understood. Research indicates that the disease is associated with “plaques” and “tangles” in the brain. Current treatments only help with the symptoms of the disease. There are no available treatments that stop or reverse the progression of the disease.


References: – “Progressive Parkinsonism in Boxers.” South Med J. 1989 May;82(5):543-6. – J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1996 October; 61(4): 381–387.


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