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Biking Ability May Help Identify Type of Parkinson's

Patients who cannot cycle may have an atypical form of the disease

FRIDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The ability to ride a bicycle may separate people with standard Parkinson's disease from those with atypical Parkinson's disease, according to correspondence published in the Jan. 8 issue of The Lancet.

Marjolein B. Aerts, M.D., of the Parkinson Centre Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and colleagues assessed 111 patients with parkinsonism who rode a bicycle before disease manifestation to see whether the ability to ride a bicycle could predict whether patients develop Parkinson's disease or atypical parkinsonism.

By the time of inclusion (median disease duration, 30 months), the researchers found that two (4 percent) of the 45 patients who developed Parkinson's disease ceased cycling, as opposed to 34 (53 percent) of the 64 who developed atypical parkinsonism. Age, parkinsonism, and ataxia did not seem to significantly affect the patients' ability to cycle.

"Cycling requires a highly coordinated interplay between balance, coordination, and rhythmic pedaling of the legs. This skilled task is probably sensitive to subtle problems with balance or coordination, caused by the more extensive extranigral pathology in atypical parkinsonism. 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," the authors write.

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