Cerebral Palsy (CP) is the most common motor disorder affecting children in the United States. While that certainly sounds significant, most people don’t really know just how prevalent CP is, or the impact this disorder has on families.
At Birth Injury Guide, we want to provide families with valuable information about CP and the many ways that the disorder can impact your family. Based on our research and information gathered from sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we have compiled some informative cerebral palsy statistics that can help shine a light on the true prevalence and impact of CP on our society.
Data and Statistics Related to Cerebral Palsy
CP is a condition that affects infants, children and adults across the world. Population studies estimate that between 1.5 and four children out of every 1,000 live births will develop CP. That equates to one in every 323 children. Currently, estimates suggest that around 500,000 people under the age of 18 have CP.
- Boys – 3.6 per 1,000
- Girls – 2.5 per 1,000
Types of Cerebral Palsy
- Spastic – 77% of all CP cases are spastic.
- Dyskinetic – 5% of all CP cases are dyskinetic.
- Ataxic – 3% of all CP cases are ataxic.
- Mixed – 15% of all cases are a mixed variation.
By eight years old, around 60% of children with CP will be diagnosed with another form of intellectual disability:
- 40% of children will be diagnosed with intellectual delay.
- 35% of children will be diagnosed with epilepsy.
- 15% of children will be diagnosed with vision impairment.
- 9% of children will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
- One in four children with CP have an intellectual disability and epilepsy.
Risk factors for CP include the following:
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight (primarily infants weighing less than 1,500 grams)
- Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Fertility treatments
- Maternal infections
- Blood flow problems
- Traumatic head injury
- Oxygen deprivation
How Cerebral Palsy Affects Children
Ability to Walk
Due to neurological complications sending wrong messages to muscle groups, walking is very difficult for many people with CP. According to the CDC:
- Around 58% of children with CP can walk independently.
- 3% of children with CP require mobility assistance devices.
- Around 30% have limited or no walking ability.
- 41% of children with CP have limitations in their ability to crawl, run, walk or play.
- 31% of children with CP require special equipment like a walker or wheelchair.
- Black children are 1.7 times more likely to have limited or no ability to walk than white children.
Three out of every four patients with CP report being in pain. This could be due to spasticity and may also be due to inconsistent muscle tone that causes a chain reaction of pain through other muscles. Overcompensation, the inability to achieve a consistent gait, and spinal problems are usually the cause of this pain.
One out of every four people with CP have the inability to talk. Children and adults who have CP often experience the following difficulties:
- Gag reflex problems.
- Problems with controlling the esophageal muscles.
- Spinal problems that affect the position of esophageal muscles.
- Excessive drooling.
Speech therapy can often help them to exercise these areas and to hopefully gain control. Unfortunately, some children never gain complete control and struggle with speech difficulties permanently.
Due to nerve damage, one out of every 10 people with CP suffer from hearing loss. Around one in every 50 people with CP are completely deaf.
One out of every five people with CP have some variation of a sleep disorder. Sometimes this is because spasticity keeps them awake. Other times, it is because of the pain that the individual is in. In addition, abnormal muscle tone may affect the chest muscles, which in turn, makes it hard for some people with CP to breathe deeply.
Behavioral and Emotional Problems
Children with CP often have a number of special needs that require them to be housebound or under constant supervision. One out of every four children with cerebral palsy have behavioral problems or problems socializing with others. The most common behavioral issues include:
- Emotional outbursts
- Poor social skills
- Poor decision-making skills
- The tendency to “black out” when angered
Living With Cerebral Palsy
As these cerebral palsy statistics show, this disorder has a wide range of impacts on the individual and his or her family. Living with CP takes adjustments, planning, and patience. It is important to remember that a diagnosis of CP does not mean that the individual will not have a fulfilling life. Yes, CP is a challenging disorder. However, there are options for therapy and treatments that can help overcome some challenges and promote a healthy and full life.