Loss of bike riding skills signals type of Parkinson’s disease

THE loss of the ability to ride a bicycle may be a clinically useful marker for differential diagnosis of atypical parkinsonism (AP), neurologists say.

Researchers in the Netherlands were the first to propose loss of this skill as a red flag for the disease, noting that patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) retain cycling ability even with prominent freezing of gait.

Japanese researchers questioned whether the marker would manifest in their own geographically hilly country, but in a study of around 100 patients they replicated the Dutch findings.

They found that “remarkably more” AP patients compared to PD patients who rode a bicycle in childhood had ceased to ride around the onset of their illness (89.9% vs 9.8%), and 40.9% of PD patients but only 3.9% of AP patients were still riding a bicycle.

Journal of Parkinson’s Disease 2011; online 7 Oct