With the World Parkinson’s Championships starting on Wednesday, this is a great time to shine a spotlight on how table tennis can help people living with the condition.
While there are no English competitors at the Worlds this year, there are many people with Parkinson’s who enjoy sessions at clubs and venues up and down the country.
Table Tennis England is partnering with Parkinson’s UK to support clubs and groups to welcome people living with the condition into the sport.
One such session is Coventry Bat & Chat (pictured above), which was started by Stephen Ashby in January 2022 to provide an opportunity for over-50s to socialise and exercise after lockdowns.
Among those who take part is Barbara, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2016 and developed Parkinson’s dementia in 2020. She attends sessions with her husband Steve.
Her family were amazed to see her play a 100-shot rally, as shown in this video
Barbara’s daughter Sally Carey said: “Exercise is particularly recommended for people with Parkinson’s due to potential issues of tremor, poor balance, stiffness, slow movement amongst other things.
“Unlike other bat/racquet sports, table tennis is ‘low impact’ and need only be of limited movement if required. In my mum’s case, it appears that some latent hand-eye coordination from her netball has been transferred to table tennis without any guidance, since the dementia aspect means she is unable to receive any instruction apart from where to stand at the beginning of a rally.
“The dementia also means she normally takes a few seconds to respond to external things and has poor concentration, both of which seem to ‘disappear’ whilst she’s playing. She also seems to enjoy the brief interaction with the other Bat and Chat players.”
One player who has previously played at Parkinson’s competitions is Gary Lee from Essex. Gary recently returned from a competition in Austria and below writes about his experiences there and in table tennis.
“Having played in a non-sanctioned Table Tennis World Championship in Croatia in 2022, I, along with over 300 fellow competitors arrived in Wels, Austria at the end of September 2023 to play in the event again.
“I had no expectations but just wanted to enjoy myself and see the friends I had made in 2022. I had entered the men’s singles and doubles and the mixed doubles.
“As the week progressed, I was playing really well and by the time of the quarter-finals in all three events I had only lost one match and that had been in the group stages of the men’s singles. I continued to play well with great partners and made the finals of each event after playing a great game in the men’s singles semi-final.
“However, in the finals the opposing players showed great skill and, in the end, I had to settle for three silver medals in class 3 of the tournament. My final stats were played 27 matches, won 23 and lost four!
“When I look back on my 16+ years Parkinson’s journey, I have found more and more that table tennis has been my salvation. Thanks to funding from Table Tennis England and Parkinson’s UK and a co-organiser, we have established Parkinson’s only Bat & Chat table tennis sessions at Myplace, Harold Hill, Essex.
“To win three silver medals and most of all meet the friends I had made in Pula, Croatia, in 2022 and also to make new friends in Austria was just a dream week for me.”
As part of our work with Parkinson’s UK, we are helping clubs and other venues be more inclusive for people with Parkinson’s and helping club coaches and volunteers feel confident to support this inclusion.
For more about this, click here or watch our webinar below.