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December 22, 1969

(Ex?) Dementia Pugilistica in Ex-Boxers

JAMA. 1969;210(12):2272. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160380086021

Like "dementia paralytica" and "dementia praecox," the term "dementia pugilistica," first introduced by Millspaugh in 1937 to describe the posttraumatic sequelae of boxing, lacks precision and specificity. The complete disorganization of personality implicit in "dementia" does not occur in all presumed victims of this disorder. Some manifest other psychic disturbances as well as neurologic symptoms. To sharpen accuracy, Critchley suggested the term "chronic progressive traumatic encephalopathy of boxers," and, more recently, Johnson proposed that the word "progressive" be omitted from the new title, since progression is not an invariable characteristic of the syndrome. Clearly, whatever the present or future designation, the term "dementia pugilistica" has become obsolete.

But has not the mislabeled syndrome itself become obsolete as a result of current strict medical surveillance of boxing? We may go even further and ask if the syndrome is an independent entity, rather than an atypical manifestation of chronic alcoholism which is