Hydrogen can relieve tissue-damaging oxidative stress, inflammation and apoptosis. Injection of hydrogen-rich saline is an effective method for transporting molecular hydrogen. We hypothesized that hydrogen-rich saline would promote the repair of spinal cord injury induced by Allen’s method in rats. At 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 12 and 24 hours after injury, then once daily for 2 weeks, 0.25 mL/kg hydrogen-rich saline was infused into the subarachnoid space through a catheter. Results at 24 hours, 48 hours, 1 week and 2 weeks after injury showed that hydrogen-rich saline markedly reduced cell death, inflammatory cell infiltration, serum malondialdehyde content, and caspase-3 immunoreactivity, elevated serum superoxide dismutase activity and calcitonin gene-related peptide immunoreactivity, and improved motor function in the hindlimb. The present study confirms that hydrogen-rich saline injected within 2 weeks of injury effectively contributes to the repair of spinal cord injury in the acute stage.