The emergence of 4D printing from additive manufacturing has opened new frontiers in crashworthiness application. Energy-absorbing structures with fixed geometrical shapes and irreversible deformation stages can be programmed such that after mild or extreme deformation, their initial shapes, properties and functionalities can be recovered with time when actuated by external stimuli. This survey delves into the recently-accelerated progress of shape memory/recovery energy-absorbing metamaterials (EAMM) and energy-absorbing smart/intelligent structures (EASS). First, the introduction gives some fundamental concepts of metamaterials and their application to energy-absorbing structures. Next, some common 3D printing technologies that have led to 4D printed EAMM and EASS are succinctly described. Shape memory materials, their functional properties and recovery process, are then discussed. Finally, various recoverable/reversible energy absorbers with their future challenges and perspectives, are presented. With well-tailored 4D printed EAMM and EASS, reusability with minimal maintenance and higher energy absorption capacity can be retained.