Background The aim of the present study was to investigate microglia activation over time following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and to relate these findings to glutamate release. Procedures Sequential dynamic (R)-[11C]PK11195 PET scans were performed in rats 24 hours before (baseline), and one and ten days after TBI using controlled cortical impact, or a sham procedure. Extracellular fluid (ECF) glutamate concentrations were measured using cerebral microdialysis. Brains were processed for histopathology and (immuno)-histochemistry. Results Ten days after TBI, (R)-[11C]PK11195 binding was significantly increased in TBI rats compared with both baseline values and sham controls (p < 0.05). ECF glutamate values were increased immediately after TBI (27.6 ± 14.0 μmol·L-1) as compared with the sham procedure (6.4 ± 3.6 μmol·L-1). Significant differences were found between TBI and sham for ED-1, OX-6, GFAP, Perl's, and Fluoro-Jade B. Conclusions Increased cerebral uptake of (R)-[11C]PK11195 ten days after TBI points to prolonged and ongoing activation of microglia. This activation followed a significant acute posttraumatic increase in ECF glutamate levels.