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Affecting between 2-2.5 of 1000 live births Cerebral Palsy (CP) occurs during pregnancy (75%), during birth (5%) or after birth (15%).
Classifying CP in sport is important so that athletes are grouped according to their ability. The classification system is complicated. There are 8 groups from CP1 - CP8. The grouping of the individual affects the sports that can be competed in at the highest level.
Class 1 is for the most severely disabled. Individuals who have to use an electric chair for independent mobility and who will need assistance with daily living skills. All four limbs will be severely affected.
Class 2 athletes often use an electric chair for preference, as whilst they can propel a manual wheelchair, slopes, uneven ground and distance will present problems. Again, all four limbs will be affected, but some limited function will be evident.
Class 3 is appropriate where the athlete can manipulate a wheelchair, but will usually have some difficulty in trunk range of movement and balance, affecting their wheelchair mobility. At least one upper limb will be significantly affected.
The athlete who presents with no functional limitation of upper limbs, excellent wheelchair control and good trunk mobility will be Class 4.
Classes 1 – 4 are a seated continuum. Classes 5, 6,7 and 8 are for standing athletes. This section of classes is not a continuum, each number denotes a particular style of impairment.
Class 5 athletes’ impairment affects them from the waist down; both legs are affected but athletes compete in an upright position.
Class 6 is relevant when all four limbs are affected. Most commonly, but not exclusively this class of athletes have uncontrolled movement.
Class 7 athletes also have half of their body affected, but in this case it is one side (one arm and leg on the same side).
Class 8 is the minimal impairment standing class.
If you are interested in finding out more about the classification system used in CP sport then please contact CP Sport (www.cpsport.org).