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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common in boxing and other contact sports. The long term irreversible and progressive aftermath of TBI in boxers depicted as punch drunk syndrome was described almost a century ago and is now widely referred as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The short term sequelae of acute brain injury including subdural haematoma and catastrophic brain injury may lead to death, whereas mild TBI, or concussion, causes functional disturbance and axonal injury rather than gross structural brain damage. Following concussion, symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, reduced attention, amnesia and headache tend to develop acutely but usually resolve within a week or two. Severe concussion can also lead to loss of consciousness. Despite the transient nature of the clinical symptoms, functional neuroimaging, electrophysiological, neuropsychological and neurochemical assessments indicate that the disturbance of concussion takes over a month to return to baseline and neuropathological evaluation shows that concussion-induced axonopathy may persist for years. The developing brains in children and adolescents are more susceptible to concussion than adult brain. The mechanism by which acute TBI may lead to the neurodegenerative process of CTE associated with tau hyperphosphorylation and the development of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) remains speculative. Focal tau-positive NFTs and neurites in close proximity to focal axonal injury and foci of microhaemorrhage and the predilection of CTE-tau pathology for perivascular and subcortical regions suggest that acute TBI-related axonal injury, loss of microvascular integrity, breach of the blood brain barrier, resulting inflammatory cascade and microglia and astrocyte activation are likely to be the basis of the mechanistic link of TBI and CTE. This article provides an overview of the acute and long-term neurological consequences of TBI in sports. Clinical, neuropathological and the possible pathophysiological mechanisms are discussed. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Traumatic Brain Injury'.