Traumatic brain injury (TBI) remains one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide, yet despite extensive efforts to develop neuroprotective therapies for this devastating disorder there have been no successful outcomes in human clinical trials to date. Following the primary mechanical insult TBI results in delayed secondary injury events due to neurochemical, metabolic and cellular changes that account for many of the neurological deficits observed after TBI. The development of secondary injury represents a window of opportunity for therapeutic intervention to prevent progressive tissue damage and loss of function after injury. To establish effective neuroprotective treatments for TBI it is essential to fully understand the complex cellular and molecular events that contribute to secondary injury. Neuroinflammation is well established as a key secondary injury mechanism after TBI, and it has been long considered to contribute to the damage sustained following brain injury. However, experimental and clinical research indicates that neuroinflammation after TBI can have both detrimental and beneficial effects, and these likely differ in the acute and delayed phases after injury. The key to developing future anti-inflammatory based neuroprotective treatments for TBI is to minimize the detrimental and neurotoxic effects of neuroinflammation while promoting the beneficial and neurotrophic effects, thereby creating optimal conditions for regeneration and repair after injury. This review outlines how post-traumatic neuroinflammation contributes to secondary injury after TBI, and discusses the complex and varied responses of the primary innate immune cells of the brain, microglia, to injury. In addition, emerging experimental anti-inflammatory and multipotential drug treatment strategies for TBI are discussed, as well as some of the challenges faced by the research community to translate promising neuroprotective drug treatments to the clinic. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.