Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease confirmed at postmortem. Those at highest risk are professional athletes who participate in contact sports and military personnel who are exposed to repetitive blast events. All neuropathologically confirmed CTE cases, to date, have had a history of repetitive head impacts. This suggests that repetitive head impacts may be necessary for the initiation of the pathogenetic cascade that, in some cases, leads to CTE. Importantly, while all CTE appears to result from repetitive brain trauma, not all repetitive brain trauma results in CTE. Magnetic resonance imaging has great potential for understanding better the underlying mechanisms of repetitive brain trauma. In this review, we provide an overview of advanced imaging techniques currently used to investigate brain anomalies. We also provide an overview of neuroimaging findings in those exposed to repetitive head impacts in the acute/subacute and chronic phase of injury and in more neurodegenerative phases of injury, as well as in military personnel exposed to repetitive head impacts. Finally, we discuss future directions for research that will likely lead to a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms separating those who recover from repetitive brain trauma vs. those who go on to develop CTE.
Keywords: neuroimaging; repetitive head injury.
© 2015 International Society of Neuropathology.