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Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy a Real Disease?

Randolph, Christopher PhD

doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000022
Head, Neck, and Spine: Section Articles

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has received widespread media attention and is treated in the lay press as an established disease, characterized by suicidality and progressive dementia. The extant literature on CTE is reviewed here. There currently are no controlled epidemiological data to suggest that retired athletes are at increased risk for dementia or that they exhibit any type of unique neuropathology. There remain no established clinical or pathological criteria for diagnosing CTE. Despite claims that CTE occurs frequently in retired National Football League (NFL) players, recent studies of NFL retirees report that they have an all-cause mortality rate that is approximately half of the expected rate, and even lower suicide rates. In addition, recent clinical studies of samples of cognitively impaired NFL retirees have failed to identify any unique clinical syndrome. Until further controlled studies are completed, it appears to be premature to consider CTE a verifiable disease.

Department of Neurology, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL

Address for correspondence: Christopher Randolph, PhD, 1 East Erie, Suite 353 Chicago, IL 60611; E-mail: crandol@lumc.edu.

Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Sports Medicine.