This work critically reviews chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), with a specific focus on the single criterion necessary and sufficient for diagnosis. Herein, CTE is compared to other well-established neurodegenerative entities including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Each neurodegenerative disorder is reviewed in five pertinent areas: 1) historical perspective, 2) guideline formation process, 3) clinical diagnostic criteria, 4) pathological diagnostic criteria, and 5) validation of previously described diagnostic criteria (e.g., sensitivity and specificity). These comparisons indicate that CTE is a disease in the earliest stages of formation and has yet to undergo rigorous development and refinement similar to other neurodegenerative diseases. Suggested future revisions to the diagnostic criterion of CTE include establishing a lower threshold for accumulation of pathology, as well as accounting for the presence of concomitant neuropathology and comorbid neurodegenerative disorders. Currently, while initial efforts have been attempted, agreed upon antemortem clinical criteria do not exist. As has been the scientific standard with similar neurodegenerative disorders, antemortem diagnostic guidelines should first be refined through subcommittees of neuroscientists from diverse institutional backgrounds with a subclassification of levels of diagnostic certainty (possible, probably, and definite). Validation studies should then assess the predictive value and accuracy of proposed antemortem diagnostic criteria in relation to potential pathological criteria.
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