Epidemiology of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears in the National Football League

Riann M. Palmieri-Smith, Christina D. Mack, Robert H. Brophy, Brett D. Owens, Mackenzie M. Herzog, Bruce D. Beynnon, Kurt P. Spindler, Edward M. Wojtys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are common in contact athletics and have a significant effect on the athletic performance and well-being of affected players. The prevalence, timing, and characteristics of ACL tears in National Football League (NFL) athletes are lacking. Purpose: To define the epidemiology of ACL tears among NFL athletes. Study Design: Descriptive epidemiology study. Methods: This retrospective study includes all ACL injuries entered into the NFL injury database through the centralized leaguewide electronic health record system for the 2015-2019 seasons. Results: A total of 314 ACL injuries occurred during the 5-year study period, with a mean of 62 per year. The overall 1-season injury risk of an NFL player sustaining an ACL injury was 1.9% (95% CI, 1.7%-2.1%). Most ACL injuries occurred during games (n = 199), with a higher rate observed in the preseason games as compared with the regular season games (6.1 vs 2.7 per 10,000 player-plays; P <.01). NFL players with ≤3 of experience had a higher preseason injury rate (9.57 ACL tears per 1000 player-seasons) than those with ≥4 years of experience (5.12 ACL tears per 1000 player-seasons; P <.01). NFL athletes playing on special teams had the highest rate of ACL injuries (7.6 per 10,000 player-plays) in comparison with all other player positions. Conclusion: ACL injury incidence was fairly consistent across all years studied and occurred more frequently in players with ≤3 years of NFL experience. Tears were more common during games, special teams play, and the preseason.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1786-1793
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • ACL injury
  • NFL
  • epidemiology
  • football
  • knee


Dive into the research topics of 'Epidemiology of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears in the National Football League'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this