The consequences of abusive head trauma (AHT) can be devastating for both the individual child and for wider society. Death is undoubtedly a very real possibility, but even for those children who survive, there is often very significant morbidity with the potential for gross motor and cognitive impairment, behavioural problems, blindness and epilepsy, which can greatly affect their quality of life. Caring for such children places a vast financial and infrastructural burden on society that frequently extends well into adulthood. While few struggle to have any sympathy for the perpetrator, frequently the infant’s father, it should be noted that a single solitary and momentary loss of complete control can have horrific and unforeseen consequences. A number of papers within this edition describe features of AHT and include descriptions of skull fractures and extra-axial haemorrhage, along with mimics of such phenomena. However, in this review we concentrate our attention on the myriad of parenchymal findings that can occur. Such parenchymal injuries include hypoxic-ischaemic damage, clefts, contusion and focal haemorrhage. We offer our perspectives on current thinking on these entities and put them in the context of the immensely important question – how do we recognise abusive head trauma?