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Table Tennis As A Drug-Free Way To Improve Brain Function In Alzheimer’s Disease

The Bounce Alzheimer’s Therapy (BAT) Foundation, a charity aimed at building awareness in the UK of table tennis as a proactive treatment for Alzheimer’s, are seeking to expound the benefits of table tennis play in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s by delivering comprehensive table tennis programmes supported by volunteers in care homes across the country.

Alzheimer’s has a huge economic impact on the UK and costs a staggering £26.3 billion, with £4.3 billion of total costs going to drugs and healthcare, and the number of those afflicted with the disease expected to rise to 850,000 by 2015. The only way these costs can be significantly reduced is through improvements in diagnosis as well as useful pre-emptive measures including keeping the brain stimulated through activities such as table tennis.

In order to considerably enhance the potential of table tennis as an effective therapy for Alzheimer’s, BAT’s Creative Director, Ian Craigton-Chambers, and his design team have developed a specifically adapted table tennis table to intensify the therapeutic experience during play.

“In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, those with the condition start to progressively lose their visual perceptions of perspective, contrast and colour. In order to proactively compensate for these deprivations, we are, in conjunction with Butterfly, developing a specially designed table tennis table that will help counter diminishing visual cognizance in those three areas,” said Craigton-Chambers.

“In addition, and in order to create a much more comforting and confidence-building ‘play environment’ for those engaged in the therapy, we are collaborating with American designer, Marco Santini, to factor his innovative Inclusion Plexiglass side panels into the concept. Initial results have shown that this addition gives players a greater sense of security and control, which will subsequently considerably assist their response to the therapy,” he said.

A clinical study conducted in Japan in 1997 which demonstrates a correlation between playing table tennis and increased brain function and awareness, and the 2012 Ping Pong film, have prompted BAT to instigate research of their own which sees them working alongside Professor Steve Williams and Dr. Matthew J. Kempton at the Department of Neuroimaging in King’s College London.

“Inspired by a character in the film who, having been diagnosed with dementia, associated her improvement to playing table tennis and by the Japanese clinical study, we wanted to deliver an original piece of research that looks at what’s going on in the brain,” said Andrew Battley, BAT’s Research and Training Director.

“We believe table tennis play can have a positive and critical impact on slowing down the onset of dementia and now with the support of the team at King’s College London, we want to prove it and then drive the conversation on drug-free therapy as a way of fighting this devastating disease,” he continued.

Gavin Rumgay (Emma Brown Photography)

BAT’s work is supported by Andrew Baggaley, World Champion of Ping Pong 2015 and England’s leading table tennis medal winner at the Commonwealth Games; Scottish number 1 Gavin Rumgay; the reigning women’s singles national champion, Kelly Sibley; and English table tennis player and Olympic Team GB representative for London 2012, Darius Knight.

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