World Parkinson Congress: Table Tennis can change lives!

Elisabeth Ildal (on the left in the below picture), is a celebrated table tennis champion. She was also a spirited participant in the TT room hosted by the ITTF Foundation at the World Parkinson Congress, and she summed up her experience living with Parkinson's: "Life presents us with choices - left or right - but let's always choose the positive path. Be a relentless warrior who refuses to give up. Embrace the full potential of the life you've been given. Be stubborn. Be thankful. Treat others as you wish to be treated."

The World Parkinson Congress in Barcelona was a huge success, and we would want to start by thanking and congratulating the team at the World Parkinson Coalition, especially Eli Pollard, for organising an incredible event filled with valuable information, meaningful connections, and enjoyable moments!

We were thrilled to play a significant role in raising awareness about how table tennis can significantly improve the lives of those affected by Parkinson's Disease. Witnessing the enthusiastic response from attendees, including those directly impacted, caregivers, and medical professionals, was truly heart-warming. The collective passion displayed is a testament to the power of this sport in enhancing health and inclusivity.

We take immense pride in being the sole organization affiliated with an International Federation of a sport recognized by the IOC to have a presence at the Congress. This achievement demonstrates the unwavering commitment of the ITTF group to the topic of health and inclusion within our beloved sport. To ensure our efforts go hand in hand with our mission, "table tennis. for all. for a better life." we strive for our sport to align with UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 – ‘Good health and well-being. Ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’."

We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to the Catalan Table Tennis Association, who generously provided the tables, a table tennis mini robot, and other equipment. Their support extended beyond equipment, as they also assisted us in recruiting an enthusiastic volunteer, Ferran Guardiola Casals, who dedicated three days of his time to work with us.

Table Tennis room activities

Within the table tennis room, the Foundation staff, led by Ramon Ortega Montes, tirelessly engaged with every visitor. The array of activities we organized commenced with a self-assessment test, wherein participants were challenged with various tasks while a table tennis robot released balls at different speeds and intensities.

For those who had never played table tennis or harboured hesitations, we encouraged them to start by simply picking up a ball and throwing it or tossing the ball into the air, clapping, and then catching it. These initial exercises fostered confidence among the participants, propelling them to progress from holding a racket to bouncing the ball on it, and eventually engaging in lively table tennis matches.

Furthermore, we designed a set of specific table tennis exercises to enhance participants' balance, hand-eye coordination, focus, and memory. These activities catered to individuals of all skill levels, ensuring an inclusive and engaging experience for everyone involved.

Throughout the Congress, we hosted a spirited competition where attendees eagerly showcased their skills. Additionally, we organized a "Meet the Stars" session, offering people the opportunity to interact with champions from previous World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships. This platform not only fostered connections but also enlightened participants that anyone can take part in the upcoming Championships in Greece (1-5 November), regardless of their skill level.

Demo research on the benefits of playing Table Tennis

The Foundation also collaborated with Sense4Care, an organisation that has built a device (called StatOn) which registers fluctuations in terms of movement, and it is also capable to register falls, activity and postures such as walking and lying. The objective of the demo research was to check if just one 90-minute session of table tennis can show an improvement in the participants’ data.

Prior to the Congress, 5 patients were recruited to use the device for a week which recorded the measurements. During the Congress, in the Table Tennis room, a 90-minute session was then conducted by the Foundation where the focus was to work on the participants’ balance as well as hand-eye coordination. They were then asked to keep the device on, post the session and measurements were again studied after a day.

In conclusion, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of this demo research, including its short duration and small sample size. However, Dani Rodriguez, the representative from Sense4Care, reported noteworthy improvements in mobility and a significant reduction in inactivity.

Yet, the most gratifying outcome was witnessing the genuine enjoyment experienced by the participants during the research!

In summary, we had the pleasure of meeting extraordinary individuals who, despite facing immense challenges, discovered a way to maintain a positive outlook, stay active, and forge connections through the simple game of table tennis.

We wholeheartedly encourage everyone affected by Parkinson's to give table tennis a chance and join us at the World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships in Greece (November). Together, we can foster a strong sense of community, make some friends, have a bit of fun and improve your health by making the sport a regular part of your routine activities.

Click here to register for the World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships 2023 and embark on an incredible journey with us.

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