Making a Racket: Ping Pong Therapy for Neurodegenerative Disorders

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Dr. Antonio Barbera, a former obstetrician-gynecologist living with multiple sclerosis, is prescribing an unconventional treatment for serious neurological diseases: ping pong.  His initiative, Table Tennis Connections’ NeuroPong program, launched in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2021 and has since garnered attention nationwide.

Meeting regularly at the Council Tree Covenant Church, participants engage in ping pong sessions while Dr. Barbera collects data to assess the program’s efficacy.  Inspired by his own recovery journey after an MS diagnosis in 2016, Dr. Barbera believes in the therapeutic potential of table tennis, having experienced its benefits firsthand.

Members of the NeuroPong program attest to its positive impact, citing improvements in symptoms associated with conditions like Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Dr. Ronald Petersen of the Mayo Clinic emphasizes the importance of exercise and social engagement in managing neurodegenerative diseases, highlighting the holistic approach adopted by programs like NeuroPong.

Since its inception, the NeuroPong program has expanded beyond Colorado, reaching gyms in multiple states and partnering with universities for research collaborations.  Dr. Barbera’s vision is to establish similar programs across the country, providing individuals with neurodegenerative diseases access to beneficial interventions while advancing scientific understanding through data collection and analysis.

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