Facts about cerebral palsy

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Key Facts

  • Every 20 hours, an Australian child is born with cerebral palsy.
  • It is the most common physical disability in childhood.
  • Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a group of disorders. It is a condition that is permanent, but not unchanging.
  • Cerebral palsy is a life-long physical disability due to injury of the developing brain.
  • In most cases, brain injury leading to cerebral palsy occurs during pregnancy.
  • Cerebral palsy, except in its mildest forms, can be evident in the first 12-18 months.
  • Motor disability can range from minimal to profound, depending on the individual.
  • It can range from weakness in one hand, to an almost complete lack of voluntary movement. People with significant physical disability may require 24 hour a day care.
  • People with cerebral palsy are likely to also have other impairments in addition to their motor disability.
  • Spastic hemiplegia, where one half of the body has difficulty with voluntary movement, is the most common presentation of cerebral palsy. Approximately 40% of people with cerebral palsy have hemiplegia.
  • There is no known cure.


  • 1 in 700 Australian babies is diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
  • 1 in 2 is in chronic pain.
  • 1 in 2 has an intellectual impairment.
  • 1 in 3 cannot walk.
  • 1 in 3 has hip displacement.
  • 1 in 4 has epilepsy.
  • 1 in 4 has a behaviour disorder.
  • 1 in 4 cannot talk.
  • 1 in 5 is tube fed.
  • 1 in 5 has a sleep disorder.
  • 1 in 10 has a severe vision impairment.
  • 1 in 25 has a severe hearing impairment.
  • Of all children with cerebral palsy, 40% were born prematurely and 60% born at term.
  • 11% of children were from a multiple birth, compared to just over 6% of the Australian population.
  • Globally, approximately 17 million people have cerebral palsy.
  • Approximately 34,000 people are living with cerebral palsy in Australia.
  • The cost of cerebral palsy is estimated expenditure of $1.47 billion per year.
  • Care is estimated to cost an average of $43,431 per person per year, of which approximately 37% is borne by the individual and/or their family.
  • When a value for lost well-being is included, this cost increases to $115,000 per year.
  • The number of people with cerebral palsy in Australia is expected to increase to 47,601 by 2050.
Download the Australian Cerebral Palsy Register Report 2018
  • ACPR. (2013). Australian Cerebral Palsy Register Report Birth Years 1993 - 2006.
  • Access Economics. (2008). The Economic Impact of Cerebral Palsy in Australia in 2007.
  • McIntyre, S., Morgan, C., Walker, K., & Novak, I. (2011). Cerebral palsy--don't delay. Developmental Disability Research Reviews, 17(2), 114-129. doi: 10.1002/ddrr.1106 See abstract
  • Novak, I. (2014). Evidence-based diagnosis, health care, and rehabilitation for children with cerebral palsy. Journal of Child Neurology, 29(8), 1141-1156. doi: 10.1177/0883073814535503 See abstract
  • Novak, I., Hines, M., Goldsmith, S., & Barclay, R. (2012).Clinical prognostic messages from a systematic review on cerebral palsy. Pediatrics, 130(5), e1285-1312. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0924
(Update: 17 Nov 2015)