Dementia pugilistica: a severe tribute to a career

Clin Neuropathol. 2015 Jul-Aug;34(4):193-8. doi: 10.5414/NP300838.


A 59-year-old man, ex-professional boxer, met clinical criteria for probable Alzheimer's disease. The patient agreed to be included in a clinico-pathological study with donation to the brain bank, and he died at 71. The brain was grossly atrophic, with a prominent atrophy of the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus, and with pallor of the substantia nigra. Immunohistochemistry with anti-τ A4 revealed abundant and diffuse deposits in the neo-cortex, whereas amyloid angiopathy was absent. Coupled anti-τ AT8 immunohistochemistry and Congo red staining showed no neuritic plaques. τ-AT8-positive glial tangles and neurofibrillary tangles involved preferentially the superficial cortical layers, and were irregularly concentrated in the depth of cortical sulci and near vessels. Neurofibrillary degeneration was marked in amygdala, hippocampus, substantia nigra, and locus ceruleus. Enlarged and/or distorted axons were numerous in hippocampus and mid-brain. TDP 43-positive neuronal inclusions were numerous in amygdala and hippocampus. There was no synucleinopathy. These observations are in accordance with the previously reported data on chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The discussion is focused on professional boxing as it becomes evident that repetitive trauma on the brain provokes the deposition of abnormal proteins involved in neurodegeneration.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Boxing / injuries*
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Dementia / etiology*
  • Dementia / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged