This month, the Chicago personal injury lawyers of Passen & Powell have been exploring traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury in connection with national Brain Injury Awareness Month. Although we have previously mentioned cerebral palsy in our exploration of acquired brain in children, today we take a closer look at cerebral palsy in general. Cerebral palsy has been on the minds of many these past few weeks not only in connection with these important dates, but also in light of the inspiring achievements of the athletes participating in this year’s winter paralympic games. Many of these athletes suffer from, among other conditions, cerebral palsy, and our Chicago brain injury lawyers applaud their efforts.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a generic term which can be used in connection with any one of a number of conditions, all of which are chronic. The term “cerebral” refers to the brain, while the term “palsy” means a condition affecting posture or movement. Cerebral palsy’s primary effects are on coordination and movement of the body, particularly the muscles. These effects are caused by brain damage to one or multiple parts of the brain, which almost always occurs while a child is still in the womb, or during infancy.
Simply put, due to the damage to her brain a child or adult with cerebral palsy will not be able to move her muscles like someone without the disorder. This can and often does have an impact on every area of the victim’s life, including eating, talking, walking, and playing. The effects of cerebral palsy vary from person to person, because each victim has suffered unique damage to her brain. However, some of the common effects of cerebral palsy are:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle tightness
- Involuntary movements or “twitches”
- Difficulty walking
- Sensory disorders – problems seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or touching
- Difficulty speaking
All victims of cerebral palsy have one thing in common: they have suffered damage to the part of the brain responsible for managing muscle tone. Thus, victims of cerebral palsy can have too much muscle tone, too little muscle tone, or both. The parts of the body which has these muscle tone problems, however, varies from victim to victim.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
Although each case of cerebral palsy is, to a certain extent, unique, doctors and other scientists have classified cerebral palsy into three major categories. These categories can overlap. Some victims thus suffer from a combination of two or three of the categories of cerebral palsy. The first category is Spastic Cerebral Palsy, whose primary symptoms are stiffness and difficulty moving. The second, Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, primarily takes the form of bodily movements against the victim’s will, or outside her conscious control. The third category, Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, has the primary result of problems with balance, and related problems with depth perception. Cerebral palsy also varies by severity, which depends upon when and how the brain was injured (see Chart above discussing “Types of Cerebral Palsy”). Our cerebral palsy lawyers in Chicago have experience dealing with each of these types of cerebral palsy, in cases of varying severity.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
As discussed above, at the most basic level cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage. But what causes that brain damage? The answer is that the brain damage can be caused in any number of ways. One common source of brain injury is infection. An infection such as meningitis in a fetus or young infant can lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy. Another possible cause is bleeding into the brain, or intraventricular bleeding. This type of bleeding, particularly in premature babies, can cause very severe damage. Many cases of cerebral palsy are natural; though, others are preventable and are may be caused by medical malpractice or negligence.
For instance, a common cause of brain damage leading to cerebral palsy is a lack of oxygen reaching a fetus, or a baby during delivery. This can occur in a number of ways. For instance, the child can be left for too long in the birth canal. Or, a child can be deprived of oxygen due to a failure to recognize that the umbilical cord has wrapped around the child’s neck. When cerebral palsy is caused by depriving an unborn child of oxygen, the longer the deprivation, the more brain damage will occur, and thus the more severe the cerebral palsy will likely be.
The failure to provide proper medical care immediately following delivery is another common culprit. When medical providers working with newborns fail to recognize and treat jaundice, meningitis, or even seizures, the end result can be cerebral palsy. Delivery techniques themselves can also be responsible for cerebral palsy, from the over-use or incorrect use of vacuums and forceps to the failure to institute a c-section when the fetus becomes distressed.
Because this brain damage can be caused before, during, or after birth, in some cases no one is certain what caused cerebral palsy in a particular case. In many cases, however, the cause of the injury to the brain is readily identifiable by a trained expert. If your child is a victim of cerebral palsy, it is important that the causes of her condition are fully explored. A top Chicago personal injury attorney can help, together with experienced medical professionals, to analyze your particular circumstances.
For a free consultation with a top-rated personal injury lawyer with Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.