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Sports-related activities account for an estimated 10% of head and spinal cord injuries. In recent years, concussion in particular has garnered more interest in the medical field as well as the media. Reports of athletes suffering from long-term cognitive deficits and Parkinsonian symptoms have sparked concern in a disease process that has often been underestimated or ignored. As more reports surface, the desperate need for a better understanding of the neuropathology has been made clear. In addition to the concern for acute injury, long-term sequelae such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) are feared consequences of concussive injuries. Research studies have shown significant overlap in the neuropathology between CTE and chronic neurodegenerative processes such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In particular, tau protein deposition has been found to be present in both disease processes and may play an important part in the clinical findings observed. The present review discusses concussion and our current understanding of pathological findings that may underlie the clinical features associated with concussive injuries and resulting chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Roya Saffary is with the Boston Medical Center; Lawrence S. Chin is with State University of New York Upstate Medical University; Robert Cantu is with Boston University School of Medicine, Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA, and the University of North Carolina.