Detroit has one of the strongest cerebral palsy advocacy groups, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Detroit. UCP tirelessly raises money for cerebral palsy, and they do it in style. UCP partners with the Detroit Red Wings and the United Cerebral Palsy Pucksters to advocate a life without limits for people with cerebral palsy and other conditions that society calls a “disability.”
At least once a year, UCP Detroit holds a fundraiser called Skate Without Limits at Viking Ice Arena in Hazel Park. This is one of the most fun–and aggressive–hockey events in the country. At the event, a group of nationally renowned athletes (the Sled Dogs) who have little or no use of their legs compete against former professional hockey players. The difference between this and other fights on the ice is that players on both teams compete on high speed sleds instead of using skates. The 2013 game was called “relentless and bruising” and the entire event raised almost $36,000.00 for UCP Detroit.
This year, the hockey event raised even more money, and Red Wing Alumni John Ogrodnick, Jimmy Carson, Craig Wolanan, Lee Norwood, Dennis Hextall, Brent Fedyk, Pat Peake and Mickey Redmond took to the ice for one of the most competitive and fun matches the arena has seen.
The speed, intensity and precision of the Sled Dogs opens eyes to the potential of disabled athletes, UCP Detroit organizers say. “We help people live life without limits, regardless of their disabilities,” says Gabriella Burman, member of the Board. “Our goal is an inclusive society where people of all abilities can reach their highest potential.”
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a disorder that causes problems with movement and balance due to a brain injury that occurs around the time of birth. Sometimes cerebral palsy is noticed soon after birth, but in other children, the disorder won’t be noticed until a few years later. Babies with cerebral palsy are often slow to roll over, sit, crawl or walk, and may look weak and have poor head position. Cerebral palsy noticed a few years later in life is characterized by abnormal muscle tone, poor reflexes and motor coordination, permanently tight muscles (spasticity), spasms and other involuntary movements, unsteady walking, problems with balance, and scissor or toe walking.
What Are The Treatments For Cerebral Palsy?
Physical therapy is aimed at promoting motor and developmental skills. The parent should be taught the exercises or activities that are necessary to help the child reach her full potential and improve function.
Daily range-of-motion (ROM) exercises are important to prevent contractures that are caused by spasticity and to maintain the mobility of joints and soft tissues. Stretching exercises are performed to increase range of motion. Progressive resistance exercises should be taught in order to increase strength. The use of age-appropriate play and of adaptive toys and games based on the desired exercises are important in order to make the therapy fun. Strengthening knee extensor muscles helps to improve crouching and stride length. Postural and motor control training is important and should follow the developmental sequence of normal children; head and neck control should be achieved, if possible, before advancing to lower body (trunk) control.
Children and their parents often enjoy hippotherapy (horseback-riding therapy) to help improve the child’s muscle tone, ROM, strength, coordination, and balance. Hippotherapy offers many social, cognitive, physical, and emotional benefits.
Electrical stimulation of weakened muscles is usually tolerated well in older children and can help strengthen muscles and maintain muscle size. In a child with weak dorsiflexors (muscles in the lower leg) that are causing foot drop or tripping, electrical stimulation to the anterior tibialis (shin muscle) may be very beneficial.
Physical therapy is crucial when a child has had surgery to help correct spasticity; it helps the child obtain maximum benefit from surgery.
Occupational therapy focuses on daily life activities, such as feeding, dressing, toileting, grooming, and transfers. This therapy also focuses on the upper body. The goal should be for the child to function as independently as possible with or without the use of adaptive equipment.
Children who have spasticity of muscles in the wrist, forearm, or muscles that control the thumb may benefit from intensive therapy. Activity-based interventions such as modified constraint-induced movement therapy (mCIMT) and bimanual intensive rehabilitation training (IRP) can improve the child’s ability to use the impaired upper limb(s) and improve performance in personal care. One study found that more benefits were seen from intensive treatment than in the standard treatment; in mCIMT, grasp improved, and, in IRP, spontaneous use in bimanual play and activities of daily living in younger children increased.
Incorporation of play into a child’s therapy program is very important. The child should view physical and occupational therapy as fun, not work. Caregivers should seek fun and creative ways to stimulate children, especially those who have a decreased ability to explore their own environment.
If a child with cerebral palsy has seizures, the treatment is based on the type and frequency of the seizures. Complete seizure control can often be achieved using a single medication, but some children with cerebral palsy have particularly difficult-to-control seizures. Medication can have side effects, ranging from sedation to hyperactivity. The drugs can also affect liver function and white and red blood cells, and it is not uncommon to have bone problems. Side effects are usually not harmful and resolve when the offending medication is discontinued. The goal of the physician should be for the child to become seizure free with few or no side effects.
The treatment of cerebral palsy–especially spastic cerebral palsy–should involve multiple health professionals. Treatments include the use of medications and surgical procedures to decrease spasticity, facilitate movement, and prevent contractures. Among the most common medications are dantrolene sodium (Dantrium) and diazepam (Valium). Diazepam is both a muscle relaxant and a sedative. Baclofen (Lioresal) can be taken by mouth or infused continuously with an implanted pump directly in the cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid that bathes the spinal cord and the brain). This treatment might be specifically useful for children with spasticity in the lower legs. The most common complications with these medications are drowsiness, sleepiness, and some degree of weakness. The sedative side effects of such medications often limit their usefulness. In the case of the baclofen pump, the most common complication is infection at the site of the catheter. Additionally, a muscle relaxing agent called botulinum toxin (Botox) can be injected into tight muscles to relax them. When used prudently, this procedure may prevent surgical intervention.
Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR)
Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) is surgery that is performed on the lower spinal cord to reduce spasticity in the legs. During the surgery, abnormal nerve fibers that cause high muscle tone are cut. The goal of SDR is to relax the muscles by identifying and cutting only those nerve fibers that contribute to spasticity. When it is followed by months of rehabilitation, SDR can improve the child’s ability to move and control her muscles. SDR may reduce the need for future orthopedic surgeries.
Spasticity is caused by a problem with communication between the brain and the spinal cord. The message loop between the brain, the spinal cord, the nerves and the muscles doesn’t function correctly, which causes the muscles to be tight. During SDR, physicians carefully identify and test the sensory nerves to see exactly which ones are misfiring. Only nerves that aren’t working well are cut, interrupting the message loop that was causing the spasticity. This provides long-term improvement in muscle tone because the nerves do not grow back together.
Tendon Release Procedures
Tendon release surgery allows improved range of motion in some cases. The surgery is usually performed on the muscles of the calf or inner thigh.
Tendon release surgery normally involves cutting the tendon and allowing it to retract towards the junction of the muscle and tendon. The purpose of tendon release is to identify and surgically remove the area producing symptoms, while protecting the normal surrounding tissues and their attachments.
Tendon release is commonly done to relieve tightened or shortened muscles (contractures), allow relaxation of joints, and decrease irritation caused by friction. Sometimes the tendon is re-routed to maintain muscle function.
How Can Society Help Children With Cerebral Palsy?
Children with cerebral palsy should be included a lot of fun activities. Kids should be on the cheerleading squad or local Boys Scouts chapter. There is a program called Miracle League Baseball, which is baseball played on a special field that allows children with any disability to play. Even children in wheelchairs can hit the ball and go around bases because every kid has a “buddy” to assist her. There are horseback riding trails in almost every state so that children with cerebral palsy can ride horses and enjoy nature. Kids in wheelchairs can ride in buggies pulled by horses, and some riding trails have music stops where children can play music or just listen to it. There are incredible camps around the country for kids with cerebral palsy and special needs, and they provide a festive atmosphere with specialized counselors who can help children go swimming and roast marshmallows. There are even ski lodges throughout the country so children with no use of their legs can speed down black diamond hills.
Reiter & Walsh: Advocating For Children With Cerebral Palsy And Special Needs For Over 25 Years
Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is a national birth injury law firm that has been helping and advocating for children for decades. Jesse Reiter, the co-founder of the firm, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 25 years. He is currently recognized as one of the best medical malpractice attorneys in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as one of the best law firms in the country. The attorneys at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).
If your child was diagnosed with a permanent disability, such as cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), intellectual disabilities or developmental delays, the award winning attorneys at ABC Law Centers can help. We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent. Our nationally recognized firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. Email or call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation. Our attorneys are available 24/7 to speak with you.