Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a highly lethal event with a poor prognosis. Recovering residual neuronal function in the intermediate stage of TBI is important for treatment; however, neuroinflammation and neuronal apoptosis impede residual neuronal repair processes. Considering that hyperglycemia influences inflammatory processes and neuronal survival, we examined the effects of high glucose on neuroinflammation and neuronal death during the intermediate phase of TBI. Rat models of type 2 diabetes mellitus and/or TBI were developed and behaviorally assessed. Neurological function and cognitive abilities were impaired in TBI rats and worsened by type 2 diabetes mellitus. Histopathological staining and analyses of serum and hippocampal mRNA and protein levels indicated that neuroinflammation and apoptosis were induced in TBI rats and exacerbated by hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia inhibited hippocampal mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 5 (MEK5) phosphorylation in TBI rats. In vitro assays were used to assess inflammatory factor expression, apoptotic protein levels and neuronal survival after MEK5 activation in TBI- and/or high-glucose-treated neurons. MEK5/extracellular signal-regulated kinase 5 (ERK5) pathway activation reduced the inflammation, cleaved caspase-3 expression, Bax/Bcl-2 ratio and apoptosis of TBI neurons, even under high-glucose conditions. Thus, high glucose exacerbated neuroinflammation and apoptosis in the intermediate stage post-TBI by inhibiting the MEK5/ERK5 pathway.