Traumatic spinal cord injuries have a tremendous impact on individuals, families, and society as a whole. Substantial heterogeneity in the patient population, their presentation and underlying pathophysiology has sparked debates along the care spectrum from initial assessment to definitive treatment. This article reviews spinal cord injury (SCI) management followed by a discussion of the salient controversies in the field. Current care practices modeled on the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons joint section guidelines are highlighted including key recommendations regarding immobilization, avoidance of hypotension, early International Standards for Neurological Classification of SCI examination and intensive care unit treatment. From a diagnostic perspective, the evolving roles of CT, MRI, and leading-edge microstructural MRI techniques are discussed with descriptions of the relevant clinical literature for each. Controversies in management relevant to clinicians including the timing of surgical decompression, methylprednisolone administration, blood pressure augmentation, intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring, and the role of surgery in central cord syndrome and pediatric SCI are also covered in detail. Finally, the article concludes with a reflection on clinical trial design tailored to the heterogeneous population of individuals with SCI.