Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in athletes: progressive tauopathy after repetitive head injury

Ann C McKee, Robert C Cantu, Christopher J Nowinski, E Tessa Hedley-Whyte, Brandon E Gavett, Andrew E Budson, Veronica E Santini, Hyo-Soon Lee, Caroline A Kubilus, Robert A Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1375 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Since the 1920s, it has been known that the repetitive brain trauma associated with boxing may produce a progressive neurological deterioration, originally termed dementia pugilistica, and more recently, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). We review 48 cases of neuropathologically verified CTE recorded in the literature and document the detailed findings of CTE in 3 profession athletes, 1 football player and 2 boxers. Clinically, CTE is associated with memory disturbances, behavioral and personality changes, parkinsonism, and speech and gait abnormalities. Neuropathologically, CTE is characterized by atrophy of the cerebral hemispheres, medial temporal lobe, thalamus, mammillary bodies, and brainstem, with ventricular dilatation and a fenestrated cavum septum pellucidum. Microscopically, there are extensive tau-immunoreactive neurofibrillary tangles, astrocytic tangles, and spindle-shaped and threadlike neurites throughout the brain. The neurofibrillary degeneration of CTE is distinguished from other tauopathies by preferential involvement of the superficial cortical layers, irregular patchy distribution in the frontal and temporal cortices, propensity for sulcal depths, prominent perivascular, periventricular, and subpial distribution, and marked accumulation of tau-immunoreactive astrocytes. Deposition of beta-amyloid, most commonly as diffuse plaques, occurs in fewer than half the cases. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a neuropathologically distinct slowly progressive tauopathy with a clear environmental etiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-35
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Volume68
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes

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