Mental Health, Physical Activity, and Sports Among Children With Cerebral Palsy

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Child: Care, Health and Development





People with cerebral palsy (CP) may be at an increased risk for mental health disorders due to co-occurring physical and communication limitations associated with the condition. Participation in physical activity (PA) and sports may provide opportunities to increase socialization and improve physical function. The purpose of this study was to examine associations between participation in daily PA and sports and mental health among children with CP.


Participants included children with CP (n = 458) and typically developing children (TDC) (n = 40 091) 6–17 years whose parents participated in the 2016–2020 National Survey of Children's Health. Mental health disorders included anxiety, depression, behavioural disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Compared with TDC, children with CP had a higher prevalence of mental health disorders (75.5% vs. 54.2%) and were more likely to receive mental health care (21.5% vs. 14.6%). Controlling for sociodemographic variables, children with CP were more likely to experience anxiety [odds ratio (OR) 2.6; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 2.1–3.3), depression (OR 1.8; 95% CI 1.3–2.4), behavioural disorders (OR 4.8; 95% CI 3.8–6.0) and ADHD (OR 2.1; 95% CI 1.6–2.6). The likelihood of these conditions decreased when children participated in sports for anxiety (OR 2.2; 95% CI 1.8–2.8), depression (OR = 1.4; 95% CI 1.0–2.0), behavioural disorders (OR 4.1; 95% CI 3.2–5.1) and ADHD (OR 1.9; 95% CI 1.5–2.5). The likelihood for anxiety (OR 2.3; 95% CI 1.8–2.8), depression (OR 1.4; 95% CI 1.0–1.9), behavioural disorders (OR 4.4; 95% CI 3.5–5.5) and ADHD (OR 1.9; 95% CI 1.5–2.4) also decreased with participation in daily PA.


There is an overwhelming disparity in the number of children with CP who have a mental health disorder and those who receive mental health care. Increasing access to participation in sports and PA may be beneficial.


Georgia Southern University faculty member, Haresh D. Rochani and Gavin Colquitt co-authored Mental Health, Physical Activity, and Sports Among Children With Cerebral Palsy.