Raman spectroscopy was used to study temporal molecular changes associated with spinal cord injury (SCI) in a rat model. Raman spectra of saline-perfused, injured, and healthy rat spinal cords were obtained and compared. Two injury models, a lateral hemisection and a moderate contusion were investigated. The net fluorescence and the Raman spectra showed clear differences between the injured and healthy spinal cords. Based on extensive histological and biochemical characterization of SCI available in the literature, these differences were hypothesized to be due to cell death, demyelination, and changes in the extracellular matrix composition, such as increased expression of proteoglycans and hyaluronic acid, at the site of injury where the glial scar forms. Further, analysis of difference spectra indicated the presence of carbonyl containing compounds, hypothesized to be products of lipid peroxidation and acid catalyzed hydrolysis of glycosaminoglycan moieties. These results compared well with in vitro experiments conducted on chondroitin sulfate sugars. Since the glial scar is thought to be a potent biochemical barrier to nerve regeneration, this observation suggests the possibility of using near infrared Raman spectroscopy to study injury progression and explore potential treatments ex vivo, and ultimately monitor potential remedial treatments within the spinal cord in vivo.