Cerebral Palsy Data & Statistics
Cerebral palsy facts about the population of people with CP in the United States are limited. Information about how many people have CP has been gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from only four communities in the United States–which makes it very limited. It’s going to take advocacy for federal support to dedicate funding for better tracking the characteristics of people with cerebral palsy in the US. In the meantime, you can help researchers and clinicians better understand our community and its needs by participating in our cerebral palsy community registry. This registry allows you to self-report information about your experiences with CP.
Here are the key findings from their report which is based on children who were 8 years old and living in these four communities in 2008 (updated information now available from 2010):
- The number of people with cerebral palsy in the United States is approximately 1 in 345.
- CP was more common among boys than girls.
- CP was more common among black children than white children. Hispanic and white children were about equally likely to have CP.
- Most (82.9%) of the children identified with CP had spastic cerebral palsy. (updated)
- Many of the children with CP also had at least one co-occurring condition–42% had co-occurring epilepsy.(updated)
*Please note that the race/ethnic terminology used here is what is used on the CDC website and is used by the United States Census Bureau.
Cerebral Palsy Facts
1 — CP is the most common movement disability in children. 
2 — CP affects more adults than children despite being widely referred to as a childhood disorder.
3 — Cerebral palsy may now be diagnosed as high risk for cerebral palsy before five months (corrected age) by incorporating standardized movement assessments such as Prechtl’s General Movements.
4 — Cerebral palsy affects movement, posture and coordination.
5 — The sooner targeted early interventions are started for infants and children with cerebral palsy, the better their motor (movement) and cognitive outcomes.
6 — Cerebral palsy is caused by a brain injury that may also affect sensation, perception, the musculoskeletal system and more (i.e. epilepsy, vision and hearing problems, hip dislocation, and communication difficulties).
7 — It is not known why cerebral palsy occurs in one infant and not another who has similar risks.
8 — Symptoms of cerebral palsy vary from person to person depending on how and where the brain has been injured.
9 — There are four types of cerebral palsy that describe the individual’s type/s of movement disorder/s: spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, mixed. (Dyskinetic includes athetoid, choreoathetoid, and dystonic cerebral palsies.)
10 — About 40-50 percent of individuals with cerebral palsy are wheelchair users.
11 — The injury that causes cerebral palsy is permanent and does not worsen, but the symptoms of a person’s cerebral palsy may change over time.
12 — Many individuals with CP report being in pain across the lifespan, with 75 percent of adults reporting pain.
13 — Lifespans of people with cerebral palsy are often similar to those without cerebral palsy.
14 — The energy used to move by a person with cerebral palsy is three (3) to five (5) times more than that of a person without cerebral palsy.
15 — Premature aging is common in cerebral palsy, and 1/3 of adults report a decline in mobility as they age (some as early as in their 20’s).
16 — Depression and changes in mood, personality and behavior, are higher in those with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, than those who do not have disabilities.
17 — National funding provided for CP research in 2019 ($28 million) was significantly lower than other developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome ($86 million). Funding estimates for 2021 are $26 million, for CP, and $105 million for Down syndrome.
18 — Adults with CP struggle with access to healthcare professionals knowledgeable about aging with CP.
19 — Adults with CP are eight times more at risk for myelopathy/spinal compression than the general population, and most go undiagnosed and untreated.
20 — As of 2021, there is no known cure for the symptoms of cerebral palsy. Existing treatments for addressing pain and innovations in technology are still insufficient and prevent people with CP from living their best lives.
*Circumstances allowing for an early and accurate diagnosis will vary.
For more information, download our free cerebral palsy tool kit.
- National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 31). What is Cerebral Palsy? Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/cp/facts.html
- Smith, S., Gannotti, M., Hurvitz, E., Jensen, F., Krach, L., Kruer, M., . . . Aravamuthan, B. (2021, February 26). Adults with Cerebral Palsy Require Ongoing Neurologic Care: A Systematic Review. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ana.26040[abstract]
- Iona Novak, P. (2017, September 01). Early, Accurate Diagnosis and Early Intervention in Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2636588[abstract]
- Novak, I., Morgan, C., Adde, L., Badawi, N., Blackman, J., Boyd, R. N., . . . White, R. (2017, September). Care Pathways: CARE PATHWAY FOR EARLY DETECTION OF CEREBRAL PALSY. Retrieved from https://www.aacpdm.org/publications/care-pathways/early-detection
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, N. (2013, July). Cerebral Palsy: Hope Through Research. Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Cerebral-Palsy-Hope-Through-Research
- Parkinson, K., Dickinson, H., Arnaud, C., Lyons, A., & Colver, A. (2013, June 01). Pain in young people aged 13 to 17 years with cerebral palsy: Cross-sectional, multicentre European study. Retrieved from https://adc.bmj.com/content/98/6/434
- American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, A. (2021, March 25). Pain in Adults with Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved from American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine
- Blackman, James A, et al. “Pathophysiology of Chronic Pain in Cerebral Palsy: Implications for Pharmacological Treatment and Research.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 7 June 2018, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/dmcn.13930.
- Dr. Darcy Fehlings talks about pain management for kids with cerebral palsy. (2014, March 4). Retrieved from https://hollandbloorview.ca/stories-news-events/news/dr-darcy-fehlings-talks-about-pain-management-kids-cerebral-palsy