Cerebral Palsy Statistics

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Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term that refers to a group of neurological disorders that affect an individual’s muscle coordination and tone, posture and body movement, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cerebral palsy is a permanent, but not progressive, condition that is typically diagnosed between infancy and the age of three. Cerebral Palsy results from a disturbance in the development of the immature fetal or infant brain. The type and severity of cerebral palsy varies among individuals.


Cerebral palsy is the number one cause of childhood disability that affects development and function. In the United States, approximately 800,000 people have cerebral palsy, reports the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Conservatively, there are an estimated 1.5 to 2 cases per 1,000 live births, although some authorities report 2 to 6 cases per 1,000 live births. Boys are disproportionately affected by cerebral palsy, compared to girls; 135 boys are diagnosed with the disorder for every 100 girls, reports J. L. Hutton, lead author of “Life Expectancy of Children with Cerebral Palsy.” Cerebral palsy statistics are similar worldwide.


Cerebral palsy is broken into two categories: congenital cerebral palsy and acquired cerebral palsy. The vast majority of cases of cerebral palsy are congenital. Cerebral palsy statistics demonstrate that in only five to ten percent of cases of congenital cerebral palsy, brain injury is a result of complications at birth. In 90 to 95 percent of cases, the disorder is a result of events that occur before birth, such as fetal injury, maternal or fetal infections, maternal fevers, fetal stroke or genetic mutations, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Acquired cerebral palsy, in which the disorder happens after birth, is far less common. Unlike congenital cerebral palsy, health care providers are often able to determine the cause of acquired cerebral palsy, because it is often the result of brain damage resulting from an infection of the brain, such as viral encephalitis or bacterial meningitis, or a head injury from a motor vehicle accident, child abuse or a fall.

Types of Motor Disorders

Dr. Christine Thorogood, author of “Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Cerebral Palsy,“ explains that cerebral palsy is broken into 3 categories: spastic, dyskinetic and ataxic. Less than fve percent of patients diagnosed with cerebral palsy are diagnosed as ataxic, and only 10 to 15 percent are dyskinetic. Seventy to eighty percent of cases of cerebral palsy fall into the spastic category, where they are further broken down into subcategories, with 10 to 15 percent classified as quadriplegia, 30 to 40 percent as diplegia, 20 to 30 percent as hemiplegia, and rare cases of monoplegia. Some cases of cerebral palsy may present as a mixture of the three main types.


Cerebral palsy statistics show that the prognosis for individuals diagnosed with cerebral palsy has improved over the years, with 65 to 90 percent of patients surviving into adulthood. Adults with cerebral palsy often experience pain, depression, osteoarthritis, premature aging, and post-impairment syndrome.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cerebral Palsy: Signs and Causes https://www.cdc.gov/Features/CerebralPalsy/

Hutton, J.L. “Life Expectancy of Children with Cerebral Palsy,” https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/statistics/staff/academic-research/hutton/scope4.pdf

Kids Health, https://kidshealth.org/parent/system/ill/birth_defects.html#a_Common_Birth_Defects

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/cerebral_palsy/detail_cerebral_palsy.htm#154533104

Thorogodd, C. “Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for Cerebral Palsy”, https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/310740-overview

4MyChild, https://www.cerebralpalsy.org/what-is-cerebral-palsy/statistics/