BACKGROUND: Paediatric traumatic brain injury (PTBI) is a major public health problem. However, recent epidemiological data for PTBI in South Africa (SA) are lacking. OBJECTIVES: To establish a demographic profile of severe PTBI admissions to the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital (RCWMCH) over a 5-year period, by investigating trends in annual admissions, age, sex, language, time and day of injury, and aetiology. METHODS: This retrospective, descriptive, quantitative study included children admitted to the RCWMCH with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) between June 2006 and April 2011, who required intracranial monitoring. We used the Division of Paediatric Neurosurgery's TBI database to identify cases for inclusion in the study and to gather demographic and injury information. RESULTS: Descriptive statistics suggested that: (i) the number of annual admissions did not vary substantially across the study period; (ii) the peak admission age was 6 years; (iii) more boys than girls were admitted; (iv) the major mechanism of injury was pedestrian road traffic accidents; and (v) most injuries occurred on weekends. These results are discussed against the backdrop of international research on PTBI and reflect the extent to which epidemiological findings on TBI in high-income countries compare with those from low- and middle-income countries such as SA. CONCLUSION: The identification of aetiological factors and the description of demographic profiles of children sustaining TBI constitutes a basis for preventative policy administration and intervention strategies in SA.