Cycling ability a clue to type of Parkinson's Disease

Dutch researchers find simple question a reliable indicator

by Mark Appleton   January 12, 2011  

Amsterdam cyclist.jpg

“It’s like riding a bike” is the phrase often used when referring to a skill that once mastered is never lost or forgotten.

But the ability to ride a bike can be lost and now medical researchers in Holland have come to understand that where Parkinson's Disease is concerned, an inability to ride can indicate whether a sufferer has the typical or atypical form of the disease.

"Simply asking about cycling abilities could be added to the list of red flags that can assist clinicians in their early differential diagnosis of Parkinsonism," Bastiaan Bloem, PhD, of Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands told medical journal The Lancet.

Patients who have lost the ability to ride are highly likely to have the atypical form of the disease and can expect to suffer symptoms not normally seen in the standard form. This has implications in terms of advising patients on what to expect in the future as well as for recruitment in clinical trials of Parkinson's Disease therapies.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disease that attacks the brain and causes its nerve cells to die. Predominantly a disease affecting those over 50, the main symptoms include rigidity, trembling and a slowness of movement. There is no cure and symptoms get worse over time but they can often be controlled by a combination of medication, therapy and, sometimes, surgery.

Former boxer Muhammad Ali and actor Michael J Fox are both sufferers of the disease.