Abstract Background In the United States, TBI remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in children and young adults. A total of 1.5 million Americans experience head trauma every year, and the yearly economic cost of this exceeds $56 billion. The magnitude of this problem has generated a great deal of interest in elucidating the complex molecular mechanism underlying cell death and dysfunction after TBI and in the development of neuroprotective agents that will reduce morbidity and mortality. Methods A review of recent literature on EPO, TBI, and apoptosis is conducted with analysis of pathophysiologic mechanisms of TBI. In addition, animal experiments and clinical trials pertaining to mechanisms of cell death in TBI and EPO as a neuroprotective agent are reviewed. Conclusion The literature and evidence for EPO as a potent inhibitor of apoptosis and promising therapeutic agent in a variety of neurological insults, including trauma, are mounting. With the recent interest in clinical trials of EPO in human stroke, it is both timely and prudent to consider the use of this pharmaceutical avenue in TBI in man.