Aug 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller (81) is carted off the field during the first half against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Record year for torn ACLs in the NFL


As the NFL has turned its focus on preventing head and neck injuries, mainly concussions, we’ve seen a dramatic rise of knee injuries, particularly torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs). This is possibly a result of defenders attempting to lower their point of target (see: Dustin Keller injury).

@ACLRecoveryClub has recorded 62 torn ACLs for the entirety of the 2013 NFL season. Every player matters, but some of the most significant players who were injured include Victor Butler, Jeremy Maclin, Maurkice Pouncey, Sam Bradford, Geno Atkins, Rob Gronkowski, Tyrann Mathieu, Jake Long, Chris Harris, and NaVorro Bowman. Here’s the complete list:

ACL injuries

The list does not include players who partially tore ACLs or MCL, LCL, PCL, meniscus, or patella tendon tears. 2013’s number, 62, is significantly up from last year’s (37).

Of all the active players in the NFL, those 62 who tore an ACL account for about 4.2 percent. In 2012, that number was only 2.5 percent. 18 of those 62 who sustained injuries are tight ends and receivers, about 29 percent. It isn’t clear whether those players suffered injuries as a result of low hits when they were defenseless, but the pass-catchers account for more ACL injuries than any other position.

Each team had an average of about two players who tore ACLs. The Eagles, Saints, Panthers, 49ers, Jets, and Steelers were hit the most with the injury bug (4 players each with ACL tears). Out of those six teams, all of the NFC clubs made the postseason despite the injuries.

The Cowboys, Lions, Bears, Raiders, and Ravens were not affected by the injury, as no players from those teams tore ACLs. None of those teams made the playoffs despite being relatively healthy.

One of the main goals of the NFL has been and will be to maintain player safety. But is the league actually putting players at more risk by attempting to minimize head-to-head contact? The torn ACL is one of the most dreaded and gruesome injury in sports, and its impact is often more long-term and more significant than concussions. Leave your thoughts below.

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  • arnie

    Rishi doctors an trainers are on record. The shortening of practices an OTS’s are not good for tendons. These are part of the body that must have more time to adjust to the endurance of a football. Add to that, the NFL in their quest to make the league “safer” has declared hitting a player below the knees legal. The results that were forced from players worried of being fined for helmet to helmet contact. The concern that I have the fines for helmet to helmet were not entirely based on safety, rather to reduce the amount of lawsuits against the league, from any future/former player with head trauma.

  • Julien Bélair

    We are good, a torn ACL is way better than a concussion… oh wait…

  • cameronmm

    Amazing how fast Melvin Ingram came back from his torn ACL.

  • Dr Muon Funk

    It’s the turf. I know the NFL claims it’s safer but the first time I ever heard of ACL tears was from indoor soccer players in 1991. I know the turf technology has changed but it’s still turf.

    • Joel Cretney

      It’s not all the turf, these injuries have occurred on grass surfaces as well. It is quite possible to be part of the reason for some of the tears, but not all.

      • Dr Muon Funk

        I didn’t meant say it’s the only reason but it’s a big factor. I mean that’s like saying all concussions are caused by head to head collisions. That definitely is not the case.

  • Ken Harnish

    It is unreasonable imply that the league is sacraficing knees to save the head. There is much work to be done to improve player safety. How about better tackling techniques? It seems to me injuries occurr when a player tries to deliver a hit, takes their eyes off the other player, hits his own teammate or missess altogether.