9 Celebrities With Parkinson's Disease

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Lorna Collier on December 27, 2020
  • Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, and Brian Grant
    Famous Names Who Have Battled Incurable Movement Disorder
    Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that often causes movement problems for people who have it, such as tremors, stiffness and difficulties with balance. As the condition worsens, people may experience cognitive issues, including dementia. About 1 million Americans have this incurable condition, with 60,000 new patients diagnosed every year. Some who have battled this illness are public figures, many of whom have sought to raise awareness and funds to help find better treatments. Here are some you may know.
  • Michael J. Fox
    Michael J. Fox
    Actor Michael J. Fox is one of the most visible people with Parkinson's disease today, thanks to his acting roles and work with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Fox rose to fame as a child actor in the 1980s TV series "Family Ties,” starred in the "Back to the Future" movies and, most recently, had a recurring role as a disabled attorney in "The Good Wife." He was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991 at age 30, after noticing his finger twitching uncontrollably while filming "Doc Hollywood." Fox's foundation raised nearly $88 million for research in 2015 alone.
  • Alan Alda smiling at Comedy Hall of Fame Event
    Alan Alda
    TV legend Alan Alda, most famous for his Emmy Award-winning portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce in the series “M*A*S*H,” announced in July 2018 that he had been living with Parkinson’s disease for more than three years. Most recently, Alda has been working to help medical professionals and scientists learn to communicate more clearly and vividly through his Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. In revealing his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Alda expressed an optimistic attitude and emphasized how active he has been while living with the disease—acting, doing speaking engagements, and even boxing three days a week.
  • Neil Diamond
    Neil Diamond
    Singer Neil Diamond announced his retirement from concert touring after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in January 2018. The music legend, who was 76 when diagnosed, said the disease made it difficult to travel and perform on a large-scale basis, forcing him to cancel the third leg of this 50th Anniversary tour.
  • Linda Ronstadt
    Linda Ronstadt
    Grammy-winning singer Linda Ronstadt can no longer sing due to Parkinson's disease. She was diagnosed in 2012 and revealed her illness to the public in 2013. In 2016, she told an interviewer that she can "still sing in my brain," adding: "If you're going to have Parkinson's, you'd better have a sense of humor." She continues to make public speaking appearances, including narrating "Peter and the Wolf" as part of a San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra performance in December 2016.
  • Muhammad Ali
    Muhammad Ali
    Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali died in June 2016 at age 74 from septic shock. Ali had fought Parkinson's disease for more than 30 years, having been diagnosed in 1984, three years after retiring from boxing. One risk factor for Parkinson's is head trauma, but Muhammad's wife, Lonnie Ali, reported that doctors suspect genetics as a cause for her husband's illness. Exposure to pesticides also may have played a role. In 1997, the Alis co-founded the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, which provides care for people with the disease.
  • Pierre Trudeau
    Pierre Trudeau
    Longtime Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau (father of current Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau) was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease several years before his death in 2000 at age 80 from prostate cancer. Trudeau served 16 years as prime minister. After retiring in 1984, he lived privately in Montreal, avoiding public appearances, though he reportedly continued his daily routine of walking to his law office until two months before his death.
  • William Masters and Wife Virginia Johnson
    William Masters
    Famed sex researcher William Masters—portrayed by actor Michael Sheen in the Showtime series "Masters of Sex"—died in 2001 at age 85 from complications of Parkinson's disease. Masters was married to research partner Virginia Johnson for 22 years before the couple divorced in 1993. Masters and Johnson's books about sexuality, such as "Human Sexual Response" in 1966, revolutionized sex research and contributed new knowledge to the field.   
  • Pope John Paul II
    Pope John Paul II
    Pope John Paul II's Parkinson's disease was diagnosed in 1991 (when he was 70) but kept secret by the Vatican for 12 years. The pope's doctor later said this was done to protect the once-athletic pope's image. However, as the disease progressed, it became too difficult to hide symptoms such as a constantly trembling left hand. The Vatican acknowledged the disorder in 2003. The pope died at age 84 in 2005 from septic shock.
  • Janet Reno
    Janet Reno
    Former U.S. attorney general Janet Reno was on the job in 1995 when she noticed a tremor in her left arm. She was diagnosed shortly afterward. She told an interviewer her doctor said her disease wouldn't interfere with her work as attorney general and that she'd be "fine for 20 years." After her government career ended in 2001, she spoke to groups about her Parkinson's and worked with the Innocence Project. Reno died of complications of Parkinson's in November 2016. She was 78.
  • Brian Grant
    Brian Grant
    Brian Grant was an NBA power forward for 12 years, playing for five teams from 1994 to 2006, including the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. He was involved in charities throughout his career, even establishing the Brian Grant Foundation to help sick and needy children and their families. In 2008, two years after his retirement, Grant, then 38, was diagnosed with Parkinson's. He shifted his foundation's focus to help those with Parkinson's and continues to advocate for Parkinson's causes.
9 Celebrities With Parkinson's Disease

About The Author

Lorna Collier has been reporting on health topics—especially mental health and women’s health—as well as technology and education for more than 25 years. Her work has appeared in the AARP Bulletin, Chicago Tribune, U.S. News, CNN.com, the APA’s Monitor on Psychology, and many others. She’s a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Association of Health Care Journalists.
  1. Parkinson disease. Genetics Home Reference, National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/parkinson-disease
  2. Annual Report 2015. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/finance.html
  3. Michael J. Fox. Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000150/?ref_=nmbio_bio_nm
  4. Upcoming appearances and current news about Linda Ronstadt. The Linda Ronstadt Homepage. http://www.ronstadt-linda.com.
  5. Legendary singer Linda Ronstadt opens up about Parkinson's disease. ABC 7 News. http://abc7news.com/entertainment/linda-ronstadt-opens-up-about-parkinsons-disease/1287434/
  6. Muhammad Ali's health battle: What is Parkinson's disease? CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/04/health/parkinsons-disease-explainer/
  7. What killed Muhammad Ali? CNN.com http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/09/health/muhammad-ali-parkinsons-sepsis/
  8. What Caused Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s Disease? Slate.com http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2016/06/what_caused_muhammad_ali_s_parkinson_s_disease_it_s_nearly_impossible_to.html
  9. Pierre Trudeau is Dead at 80; Dashing Fighter for Canada. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1018.html
  10. 2000: Pierre Trudeau dies at 80. CBC.ca. http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/remembering-pierre-trudeau
  11. Dr William Masters; Groundbreaking Sexuality Researcher. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2001/feb/19/local/me-27400
  12. Sex and this City. St Louis Magazine. https://www.stlmag.com/Sex-and-This-City/
  13. Vatican hid Pope's Parkinson's disease diagnosis for 12 years. London Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/1513421/Vatican-hid-Popes-Parkinsons-disease-diagnosis-for-12-years.html
  14. Janet Reno takes on Parkinson's with curiosity, not fear. Northwest Parkinson's Foundation. https://nwpf.org/stay-informed/news/2007/04/janet-reno-takes-on-parkinson%E2%80%99s-with-curiosity,-not-fear-/
  15. Janet Reno, former U.S. attorney general, dies at 78. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/janet-reno-former-us-attorney-general-dies-at-78/2016/11/07/50fe8810-a4cc-11e6-8042-f4d111c862d1_story.html
  16. Five Famous Faces Affected by Parkinson's Disease. Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine.http://mitochondrialdiseases.org/five-famous-faces-affected-by-parkinsons-disease/
  17. Brian's Story. Brian Grant Foundation. https://www.briangrant.org/about/brians-story/
  18. Alan Alda reveals he has Parkinson’s disease: “I’m not angry.” CBS This Morning. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/alan-alda-reveals-parkinsons-diagnosis-today-2018-07-31/
  19. Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. AlanAlda.com. https://www.aldacenter.org/

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Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 27
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