This investigation examined whether survivors of severe closed head injury encode semantic properties of to-be-remembered words and the relationship of such processing to frontal lobe functioning. Fourteen patients enrolled in rehabilitation and 12 controls were administered the Release from Proactive Inhibition paradigm involving trials of recalling words from the same category followed by a shift to a new category or continued presentation of identical material. Similar to the controls, patients demonstrated a facilitation in recall when the category shifted. An association between the amount of release and frontal lobe functioning (as evaluated by neuropsychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging) was not compelling and depended upon the particular measure of release that was utilized. Pending replication in a larger, more representative sample, we suggest that conceptual encoding is relatively preserved in long-term survivors. The failure to find a robust relationship between frontal lobe pathology and semantic encoding is discussed in light of other investigations suggesting an association.