Keep moving: Finksburg’s Brandon Falk overcomes traumatic brain injury to become Rock Steady Boxing instructor

More than 30 people filled the folded metal chairs in the space before Belk inside TownMall of Westminster on Tuesday, and all of them there to celebrate the healing power of boxing.

Ted Wilson, of Finksburg, is the program director at the Rock Steady Boxing facility in the mall, Rock Steady Boxing being a national program designed to help people with Parkinson’s mitigate the symptoms of that neurodegenerative disease. But on Tuesday, as he took the microphone, he asked those gathered to celebrate a person receiving his Rock Steady Boxing instruction certification who came to it from a very different angle.


“Brandon Falk came to us because he had a traumatic brain injury. He was in an automobile accident and was in a coma,” Williams told the crowd. “He is a certified occupational therapist, who was doing that prior to his injury. He has now been able to get back into that.”

That’s something that a lot of people who have tried Rock Steady Boxing have in common, according to Larry Zarzecki, the founder and director of Movement Disorder Education, the nonprofit behind the local Rock Steady Boxing clubs in Westminster and Timonium. Whether it’s from Parkinson’s or a traumatic brain injury, many boxers are people “Who have been told that this is as good as you’re going to be,” Zarzecki said. “Please don’t expect tomorrow.”


The story of Movement Disorder Education and Rock Steady Boxing in Carroll County began in 2017, when Zarzecki first brought a demonstration of Rock Steady Boxing to Carroll Hospital to gauge interest in the local Parkinson’s patient community. Zarzecki believes the boxing program has helped him control the symptoms of his own Parkinson’s, especially tremor, and helped bring the program to its mall location in October 2017.

Falk’s story, meanwhile, begins in 2015 — you could say it was interrupted.

“This is what’s been told to me and I assume it’s true because I don’t remember — I don’t remember the decade before the accident,” he said. “Which is a shame, because I went all through college, met a lot of friends, dated a girl for 10 years. That is all gone.”

Having studied to become an occupational therapist, Falk accepted his first job after an internship on Aug. 28 of that year.


“It was good pay, like $80,000, and I was going to love the job; at least that’s what I was told,” he said. "The day that I accepted I was driving home and fell asleep at the wheel. I hit a tree at 100 miles per hour and was ejected through the window because I wasn’t wearing my seat belt."

Falk was partially paralyzed on the right side of his body, though it is hard to tell today.

“At first my arm was pulled up against my chest, couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, my face was dropping, my eye was closed,” he said.

Falk, of Finksburg, credits just one essential thing for his recovery today: movement.

“I’m an avid drummer,” he said. “Purposeful movement in any way is great. I did start drumming again right away.”

That’s something Williams is also familiar with. After experiencing strokes in 2006 and 2009, he was left with balance issues, but found some relief in movement.

“One of the things I was doing for exercise was just walking the mall. I happened to walk by and saw the sign [for Rock Steady Boxing],” he said in an interview. He was quickly hooked. "I was a boxer I guess for about six months, and then I got certified and then took over the program a little over a year ago.”

The idea behind boxing as therapy is that it strengthens muscles and stimulates the brain and the nervous system through purposeful movement, Williams said, mitigating atrophy in a progressive disease that robs people of their freedom of movement. It can also rob them of opportunities for social interaction.

“Parkinson’s patients feel isolated. They feel like they are the only ones that have this,” Williams said. “Here they get to interact with other patients.”

This was immediately familiar to Falk when he learned of Rock Steady Boxing in the spring of 2019 while looking for work through the Business Employment Resource Center (BERC). Drumming is not only a strengthening, purposeful movement, it’s often a social activity with other musicians in a band. He believes Rock Steady Boxing and becoming an coach there has further helped with his recovery.

“Our program is designed to help the instructors as much as it is to help the boxers,” Williams noted.

For those interested, membership at the Rock Steady Boxing club in the mall is $65 per month for two classes a week, according to Williams. He can be reached at tedsretired@yahoo.com or 410-982-7177.

“Please stop by sometime and see us,” Williams said. “We have extra gloves, we’ll let you box for awhile to see what it’s all about.”

And for more information on Movement Disorder Education, visit www.movementdisordereducationandexercise.com to learn more about services the nonprofit offers beyond boxing classes, including navigation services for people who may need help with food, gas and electric bills or or even a notary, according to Zarzecki.

Regardless of a person’s chosen path with Parkinson’s or recovery from an injury, Falk said, movement is everything.

“It’s all about movement, you just have to make sure you keep moving,” he said. “Play an instrument, come join us, but keep moving.”

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