professional boxer deals daily with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome | News, Sports, Jobs
Hailing from Hollidaysburg, Zack Rice embarked on a professional boxing career as a fast 132-pound fighter in the featherweight division currently training in Florida.
Rice’s toughest opponent will not be in a boxing ring, however. Now 26, Rice struggled most of his life with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder. Tourette – who subjects his patients to a myriad of involuntary vocal and / or motor tics, including, but not limited to, repetitive body movements, blinking of the eyes, shaking of the head, rolling of the eyes, unusual sounds (including, in some cases, obscenities), growling and throat clearing – is a chronic, usually lifelong condition for which there is currently no cure.
According to information from the nationally renowned Mayo Clinic, men are three to four times more likely than women to develop Tourette, and the average age of onset is 6 years.
There are 200,000 new cases of Tourette’s syndrome in the United States each year, and common conditions that occur with Tourette’s syndrome include depression, anxiety, seizures, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Treatment for severe forms of Tourette includes various types of medication to control symptoms, which can often get worse under stress.
Behavior modification therapy to manage tics is used in some cases of Tourette, as is surgery in which electrodes are implanted in certain areas of the brain.
Rice said he was prescribed several medications to treat the condition and although he currently lives and does his boxing training in Florida, he returns home to Blair County to see his family and undergo physical exams. periodicals with his doctors.
Rice was first diagnosed by doctors when she was 10 years old, but said her symptoms started to appear much earlier in her life.
Her symptoms were often misunderstood at school by her teachers and some of her classmates.
“I had facial twitches like raising my eyebrows and rolling my eyes, and I would get to the point where I would be in trouble at school, because (people) would think I was rolling my eyes at them,” said Rice, who stressed that he appreciates, and still loves, an association with a tolerant and close-knit group of friends who understand his condition.
âThat’s when I talked to my parents and explained to them that I couldn’t control this, and they took me to a doctor and I was diagnosed with Tourette’s disease. “
Symptoms of the disorder never stay the same for Rice, who started kickboxing at the age of 13 at Duncansville Progressive Martial Arts Gymnasium and switched to live boxing under the guidance of the former boxer. professional Tom Wilt and Johnny Robertson at the Altoona. Boxing club a few years later.
âTourette is constantly evolving,â Rice said. “The (symptoms) go in cycles, and they can last from a few minutes to a few months.
“I have both vocal and motor tics,” added Rice, a well-spoken person who is currently prone to unintentionally venting high-pitched sounds during conversation, as well as moving her head and neck. back and forth, and to hold his breath and suck his stomach.
Despite her struggles with Tourette, Rice did well enough in school to graduate from Hollidaysburg Area High School in 2013 and Lock Haven University in 2017, with a bachelor’s degree in sports management.
Boxing has always been a haven for Rice, who said being in the ring and competing relieved him of the symptoms of his Tourette.
“Boxing has helped me physically – I’m in the best shape of my life – and mentally, because when I’m boxing it’s about the only time Tourette doesn’t really affect me, and when I do rarely have symptoms, âRice said. “It is as if the switch toggles. Things are completely different.
Wilt, a member of the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame, confirmed this assessment.
âI coached Zack for 10 years, and over time boxing actually helped ease the symptoms of his Tourette,â Wilt said. “A lot of people don’t understand Tourette’s, and I didn’t know until I met Zack. But as a person, you can’t meet anyone better than Zack. He’s a kind, respectful boy who’s great with people, and he’s a very hard worker in the ring who has great movement and can really fight. Anyone who meets him would love him.
Rice trains under the direction of former Cuban Olympic boxing team coach Jorge Rubio at Rubio’s Gymnasium in Miami.
Rice was introduced to Rubio a few years ago through a friend of Rice’s uncle, and Rice said meeting and training under Rubio was a life-changing experience.
Rubio said having Rice on his side has been an inspiration to both Rubio personally and to the other fighters Rubio coaches.
âI am very happy to work with Zach,â said Rubio. “I’m super proud of this kid. He inspires me because of the way he performs and trains despite his condition, and how focused and dedicated he is as ever.
âI think he inspires other boxers as well, because they see what he’s doing despite his condition, and they strive to do it too,â Rubio added.
Rice, who is five-foot-eight, won her first fight last February in the Dominican Republic, winning all four rounds by decision against her opponent.
He hopes to get a few more fights before the end of this year. Rice is not currently receiving a salary for his fights, but he hopes the situation will change soon.
âGetting paid really depends on getting referrals and promotions,â said Rice, who made an inspirational YouTube video titled âNo excuses: the biggest fightâOn his life with Tourette and his career in boxing. “If I took a big nationally televised (fight) card, I’d probably get paid for it.
“I just need to progress to reach this audience, and I am currently looking for a sponsor to help me with all of my fights and with all the expenses that go with them.”
Fighting your way through adversity has been one of Rice’s strongest personal costumes.
âMy condition is pretty much a struggle every day,â Rice said. “Some days are easier than others, but you just have to keep moving forward.
Embracing gratitude for her blessings helped Rice persevere.
âThere are other people who would give anything just so they could walk around their house or use the bathroom,â Rice said. “I know I need to be grateful for the things I have and for the experiences I can have.
“Because at the end of the day, I know it could always be worse.”