Almost a century ago, the first clinical account of the punch-drunk syndrome emerged, describing chronic neurological and neuropsychiatric sequelae occurring in former boxers. Thereafter, throughout the twentieth century, further reports added to our understanding of the neuropathological consequences of a career in boxing, leading to descriptions of a distinct neurodegenerative pathology, termed dementia pugilistica. During the past decade, growing recognition of this pathology in autopsy studies of nonboxers who were exposed to repetitive, mild traumatic brain injury, or to a single, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury, has led to an awareness that it is exposure to traumatic brain injury that carries with it a risk of this neurodegenerative disease, not the sport or the circumstance in which the injury is sustained. Furthermore, the neuropathology of the neurodegeneration that occurs after traumatic brain injury, now termed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is acknowledged as being a complex, mixed, but distinctive pathology, the detail of which is reviewed in this article.
Keywords: CTE; amyloid; axons; neurodegeneration; tau; traumatic brain injury.