Dr Said Farschtschi is the Chairman of the German Neurofibromatosis Society, a neurologist who heads the Neurofibromatosis Center at University Hospital Hamburg Eppendorf. Being a judo back belt, he invited the judo couple Regina and Johannes Daxbacher, who he was a student of, to Weimar for the opening lecture of the 2023 Bundestag.
Before and during his medical studies, Dr. Farschtschi was involved with judo intensively for a number of years. He took part in competitions in Italy and even a judo trip to Japan with the police sports club in Königsbrunn. His personal, positive experiences in judo left Dr Farschtschi to think about a connection between judo and medicine, in this case neurofibromatosis.
Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a group of very different diseases that affect the skin and nervous system, among other things. Overall, the disease is rare, with NF type 1 being the most common monogenetic neurological disease and being almost as common as trisomy 21, affecting 1 in 3000 newborns. Various tumours of the central nervous system dominate in type 2 NF. Those affected are at risk of deafness and blindness as well as severe neurological deficits. What all of these diseases have in common is that they are still subject to a high level of social stigmatisation and that knowledge of the disease and its treatment options is concentrated in just a few centres.
The Bundesverband Neurofibromatose is the German nationwide self-help and patient representation hub for those affected and their families. The federal association has around 2,000 active members or member families, many of whom are volunteers. The focus is on educational work, information transfer and the exchange of experiences. An explicit aim is to improve social acceptance. The Bundestagung NF is a unique concept that takes place every one to three years as a patient congress. Respected experts report on treatment options and scientific findings and answer questions from those affected, parents and relatives.
Dr Farschtschi, who is well connected in the international scientific community, sees his favourite sport, judo, as particularly suitable for this, “Judo is almost predestined for inclusion and participation in the area of chronic diseases and social exclusion. Regina and Johannes Daxbacher have many years of experience in judo as former competitors and coaches, but also as officials and sports ambassadors. In addition, they have worked extensively in development aid over the years and have proven far more than once how judo can work as a pivot for equality and inclusion. Everyone is trainable and the body and mind can develop significantly.”
With this philosophy, Regina and Johannes Daxbacher opened the 13th Bundestag conference on neurofibromatosis. Regina began with Taiso, a Japanese relaxation and gymnastics exercise, and was able to take all participants with her in this practical self-awareness session. In a wide-ranging and scientifically sound lecture, the Daxbachers worked through the basics of sports theory as well as concrete implementations and projects. The presentation of international judo values such as respect and appreciation as well as philosophical principles of judo were emphasised.
At the end of the lecture, Dr Said Farschtschi, this time in judogi, with his former coach Johannes and in front of around 250 participants face-to-face and online, demonstrated some judo techniques.
"I was extremely pleased with the judo lecture and the great response from the participants," summarised Dr Farschtschi and closed by saying, “Now I attend judo training regularly again!” Due to the great response from the participants, but also from the approximately twenty physicians and professors present, Dr Farschtschi encouraged the idea that this excellent co-operation with judo could be further intensified. Sport is playing an increasingly prominent role in specialist literature and so ‘Judo for NF’ can also become something for large-scale projects in the future.