OBJECTIVE:To describe visits and visit rates of adults presenting to emergency departments (EDs) with a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI is a major cause of death and disability in the USA; yet, current literature is limited because few studies examine longer-term ED revisits and hospital readmission patterns of TBI patients across a broad spectrum of injury severity, which can help inform potential unmet healthcare needs. DESIGN:We performed a retrospective cohort study. SETTING:We analysed non-public patient-level data from California's Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development for years 2005 to 2014. PARTICIPANTS:We identified 1.2 million adult patients aged ≥18 years presenting to California EDs and hospitals with an index diagnosis of TBI. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES:Our main outcomes included revisits, readmissions and mortality over time. We also examined demographics, mechanism and severity of injury and disposition at discharge. RESULTS:We found a 57.7% increase in the number of TBI ED visits, representing a 40.5% increase in TBI visit rates over the 10-year period (346-487 per 100 000 residents). During this time, there was also a 33.8% decrease in the proportion of patients admitted to the hospital. Older, publicly insured and black populations had the highest visit rates, and falls were the most common mechanism of injury (45.5% of visits). Of all patients with an index TBI visit, 40.5% of them had a revisit during the first year, with 46.7% of them seeking care at a different hospital from their initial hospital or ED visit. Additionally, of revisits within the first year, 13.4% of them resulted in hospital readmission. CONCLUSIONS:The large proportion of patients with TBI who are discharged directly from the ED, along with the high rates of revisits and readmissions, suggest a role for an established system for follow-up, treatment and care of TBI.