Recognizing the Signs, Symptoms, and Causes of Cerebral Palsy


The birth of a child should be one of the most meaningful and joyous occasions of your life. Unfortunately, your family’s joy can quickly turn to anger and sorrow when a birth injury causes irreparable harm to your newborn.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability diagnosed in childhood. The group of disorders can occur because of problems during labor and delivery due to medical negligence. Knowing your child may have life-long physical limitations and complications because of a medical provider’s careless actions can be challenging for new parents.

At Finz & Finz, P.C., our medical malpractice attorneys have 40 years of experience helping families impacted by cerebral palsy. Our compassionate legal team wants to help you navigate this emotional situation by outlining the signs, symptoms, and causes of cerebral palsy and what you can do to hold careless medical practitioners accountable.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is the common name for disorders that impact muscle movement, tone, balance, and posture. “Cerebral” means having to do with the brain, while “palsy” means weakness. Although all individuals diagnosed with cerebral palsy have some issue with movement or posture, the severity of the disorder can differ from person to person. Some individuals diagnosed with the condition may have minor trouble walking or maintaining balance. More severe manifestations of the condition can cause significant physical impairments that prevent an individual from walking or communicating. In some cases, cerebral palsy can also lead to intellectual disabilities, seizures, and problems with vision and hearing.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are numerous types of cerebral palsy conditions. The type of cerebral palsy depends on the location of the brain damage. Some of the most common categories of cerebral palsy include:

  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – Ataxic cerebral palsy is typically caused by damage to the cerebellum. The cerebellum sits at the back of the brain, where the spinal cord connects to the brain. Damage to this brain region causes problems with balance and coordination and may affect quick movements or movements that require fine motor control, like writing.
  • Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – This form of cerebral palsy can include conditions like athetoid, choreoathetoid, and dystonic cerebral palsy. These conditions cause problems with controlling movement in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Movements can be slow or rapid and jerking. This category of cerebral palsy condition generally occurs following damage to the basal ganglia or cerebellum.
  • Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy – Hypotonic cerebral palsy, caused by damaging the cerebellum, is rare. Most individuals with hypotonic cerebral palsy suffer from poor mobility, limp muscle tone, and excess flexibility.
  • Mixed Cerebral Palsy – Children diagnosed with symptoms of more than one type of cerebral palsy are said to have mixed cerebral palsy. The most common mix of conditions is spastic-dyskinetic cerebral palsy.
  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy – Spastic cerebral palsy affects as many as 80 percent of people diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Damage affecting the brain’s motor cortex or pyramidal tracts causes this condition. Spastic cerebral palsy increases muscle tone, which causes muscle stiffness and awkward movement patterns. Spastic quadriplegia is the most severe form of the condition and impacts all four limbs, the trunk, and the face, leaving people unable to walk or communicate.

Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Unfortunately, it can be challenging for parents and caregivers to recognize the signs of cerebral palsy in infants and children because symptoms vary greatly. Often, the most recognizable and troubling sign of cerebral palsy occurs when children fail to reach developmental milestones as they age. In infants, these signs may include the child feeling “limp” or stiff when held. Other signs may include a child’s failure to roll over or bring their hands to their mouth.

Other common symptoms that may point to cerebral palsy can include:

  • Delay in reaching motor skill milestones
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Difficulty with speech development
  • Exaggerated muscle movements or reflexes
  • Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
  • Limp muscles
  • Lack of balance or coordination
  • Learning difficulties
  • Rigidity
  • Slow or writhing movements
  • Stiff muscles

Talk to your child’s pediatrician immediately if you notice problems with your infant or child’s motor development or are concerned about other troubling symptoms. Cerebral palsy not only causes problems with motor function, coordination, and balance, but it can also lead to other neurological problems and complications, such as:

  • Abnormal sensations associated with touch and pain
  • Bladder and bowel issues
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Mental health concerns
  • Seizures

Diagnosis of cerebral palsy may include developmental monitoring, screening for delays, CT scans and MRIs, and other specific medical evaluations.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Damage to the brain before or during birth causes cerebral palsy. Bacterial and viral infections, bleeding in the brain, and prenatal exposure to drugs, alcohol, or raw meat or fish can potentially lead to brain damage and a subsequent cerebral palsy diagnosis. However, carelessness by medical practitioners can also cause cerebral palsy in infants.

Common birth injuries that may lead to cerebral palsy include:

  • Failure to detect and treat changes in fetal heart rate
  • Failure to detect and treat viral and bacterial infections
  • Failure to schedule a medically necessary cesarean section
  • Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Improperly using medical tools like vacuum extractors and forceps
  • Shaking or improperly handing an infant at birth

Do you suspect that a medical error or careless act of a medical provider caused your child’s developmental delays? You need to contact an experienced New York birth injury lawyer for help. You may be entitled to seek meaningful compensation for your child’s medical expenses. However, medical malpractice cases can be complicated, and the longer you wait to seek help, the higher the chance that valuable evidence and documentation could be lost or destroyed.

Contact a Skilled New York Birth Injury Lawyer Today

Cerebral palsy is a significant medical condition that can cause lifelong complications for your child. Hold careless medical practitioners accountable for their actions and seek the compensation your family deserves by contacting a skilled New York birth injury lawyer with Finz & Finz, P.C.

Contact our office online or call us at (855) TOP-FIRM to learn more about your rights and arrange a free consultation today. Our compassionate team will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and outline a plan of action based on the facts of your case.


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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.