Background: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a recently revived term used to describe a neurodegenerative process that occurs as a long term complication of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Corsellis provided one of the classic descriptions of CTE in boxers under the name "dementia pugilistica" (DP). Much recent attention has been drawn to the apparent association of CTE with contact sports (football, soccer, hockey) and with frequent battlefield exposure to blast waves generated by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Recently, a promising serum biomarker has been identified by measurement of serum levels of the neuronal microtubule associated protein tau. New positron emission tomography (PET) ligands (e.g., [18 F] T807) that identify brain tauopathy have been successfully deployed for the in vitro and in vivo detection of presumptive tauopathy in the brains of subjects with clinically probable CTE.
Methods: Major academic and lay publications on DP/CTE were reviewed beginning with the 1928 paper describing the initial use of the term CTE by Martland.
Results: The major current concepts in the neurological, psychiatric, neuropsychological, neuroimaging, and body fluid biomarker science of DP/CTE have been summarized. Newer achievements, such as serum tau and [18 F] T807 tauopathy imaging, are also introduced and their significance has been explained.
Conclusion: Recent advances in the science of DP/CTE hold promise for elucidating a long sought accurate determination of the true prevalence of CTE. This information holds potentially important public health implications for estimating the risk of contact sports in inflicting permanent and/or progressive brain damage on children, adolescents, and adults.