Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE, previously called punch drunk and dementia pugilistica) has a rich history in the medical literature in association with boxing, but has only recently been recognized with other contact sports, such as football and ice hockey, as well as with military blast injuries. CTE is thought to be a neurodegenerative disease associated with repeated concussive and subconcussive blows to the head. There is characteristic gross and microscopic pathology found in the brain, including frontal and temporal atrophy, axonal degeneration, and hyperphosphorylated tau and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 pathology. Clinically, there are characteristic progressive deficits in cognition (memory, executive dysfunction), behavior (explosivity, aggression), mood (depression, suicidality), and motor function (parkinsonism), which correlate with the anatomic distribution of brain pathology. While CTE shares clinical and neuropathological traits with other neurodegenerative diseases, the clinical syndrome and the neuropathology as a whole are distinct from other neurodegenerative diseases. Here we review the CTE literature to date. We also draw on the literature from mild traumatic brain injury and other neurodegenerative dementias, particularly when these studies provide guidance for future CTE research. We conclude by suggesting seven essential areas for future CTE research.