Collegiate ACL Injury Rates Across 15 Sports: National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance System Data Update (2004-2005 Through 2012-2013)

Clin J Sport Med. 2016 Nov;26(6):518-523. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000290.


Objective: To present data on the rate of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in 15 collegiate sports from 2004 to 2005 through 2012 to 2013 updating the 1988-1989 to 2003-2004 data.

Design: Prospectively designed descriptive epidemiology study.

Setting: National Collegiate Athletic Association Schools.

Participants: National Collegiate Athletic Association School athletes.

Main outcome measure: Injury rate by year and sport.

Results: Most ACL injuries to women occurred by a noncontact mechanism (60%) versus a contact mechanism for men (59%). The highest average annual rate of ACL injury for men was found in football (0.17 per 1000 athlete-exposure [A-E]). The highest average annual rate of ACL injury for women was found in lacrosse (0.23 per 1000 A-E). There were statistically significant increases in average annual injury rate for men's (P = 0.04) and women's soccer (P = 0.01) and a statistically significant decrease in women's gymnastics over the 9 years (=0.009). Controlling for exposures, there were statistically significant increases in the average annual number of injuries for men's and women's basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, football, and volleyball and a decrease in the average annual number of injuries for baseball and women's gymnastics. Women continue to sustain ACL injuries at higher rates than men in the comparable sports of soccer, basketball, and lacrosse.

Conclusions: Anterior cruciate ligament injury rates continue to rise in men's and women's soccer. Some sports have shown absolute increases in ACL rates, which persist even after exposure rates are taken into account.

Clinical relevance: Despite extensive research and development of prevention programs before and during the time of this study, very few sports showed a reduction in ACL injury rates in this data set.

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult