Although the incidence of assault and other violent crime is increasing in the UK, the cause and overall pattern of injury, and the need for admission have not been defined in adult victims who attend hospital. In a prospective study, all 539 adult victims of assault attending a major city centre Accident & Emergency department in 1986 were therefore interviewed and examined. Facial injury was extremely common: 83% of all fractures, 66% of all lacerations and 53% of all haematomas were facial. The upper limb was the next most common site of injury (14% of all injuries). Twenty-six per cent of victims sustained at least one fracture and nasal fractures were the most frequently observed skeletal injuries (27%) followed by zygomatic fractures (22%) and mandibular body (12%), angle (12%) and condyle (9%) fractures. Seventeen per cent of victims required hospital admission. Overall, the type of injury observed correlated with the alleged weapon used (P = less than 0.001) though 20% of victims who reported attacks with sharp weapons sustained only haematomas or fractures. Injury most often resulted from punching (72% of assaults) or kicking (42% of assaults). Only 6% of victims reported injury with knives but 11% were injured by broken drinking glasses. Those who were kicked were most likely to need hospital admission.