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Why do the Broncos lead the league in ACL tears?

Since 2018, the Denver Broncos have been among the league leaders in ACL injuries every season. What is going on?

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In March of 2018 the Denver Broncos officially hired Loren Landow as the strength and conditioning coach. Since his hiring, the Broncos have been more injured than the rest of the league. I wrote about this last month using the adjusted games lost (AGL) metric, but there is another simpler measure of injuries that tells the same story. Landow is also supposed to be an expert on preventing ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries, yet the Broncos lead the league in ACL tears (tied with Giants at 5).

According to the data at, there have been 31 NFL players that have torn their ACLs this season and 13 of those are on three teams (Broncos, Giants and 49ers). Eleven teams have not lost a single player to an ACL tear this season. While it is possible this is just a result of bad luck for the Broncos, it seems like there is a rash of ACL tears that have been plaguing the Broncos for the last four or five years.

The Broncos lost KJ Hamler and DaeSean Hamilton to ACL tears in 2021 and lost Courtland Sutton to an ACL tear in 2020. It’s almost to the point where Bronco fans expect to lose a starter to an ACL tear every year. In 2019, they lost Bradley Chubb.

In other areas of the corporate world, if you hired an expert on work-related injuries to lead your Environmental Health and Safety (EHS ) department, but your TRR (total recordable rate) kept going up, you’d probably fire that person. It would appear to me just from looking at the data that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark.

There was a study done recently about the rate of ACL tears in the NFL. The average number of torn ACLs during a given NFL season from 2013-2020 was 47 (see table 2 in the linked reference). 31 through 13 weeks of the season is actually a slighter slower rate than the average year. The authors did not look at whether or not the injuries were clustered on a group of teams like I did for this season.

I can’t say for certain if the Broncos have had more ACL tears than other teams since 2018, but I can say for certain that the Broncos have this season. If there is enough interest in this information, I can go back in time on and run this data collection for the whole league back to 2018. This would be a time-consuming study, but with how poorly the Bronco offense has been playing I might take the time to do it so that I have something interesting (besides our defense) to write about.

The actual numbers from previous seasons for the Broncos may be magnified because of the perception of the lost contributions from the guys who tore their ACLs. This season Ronald Darby, Tim Patrick and Javonte Williams were all supposed to be starters and significant contributors. Without deeper knowledge of the Giants or 49ers rosters I can’t say for certain if they have “lost as much production” to ACL injuries this season as the Broncos have.

You have to go back to the 2012 season to find a year where the Broncos did not have a player on the IR with an ACL tear.

Season Total ACL tears Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 Player 5 Player 6
2022 5 Ronald Darby Tim Patrick Aaron Patrick Javonte Williams Damarea Crockett
2021 2 KJ Hamler DaeSean Hamilton
2020 6 Courtland Sutton Duke Dawson Albert Okwuegbunam Austin Fort Kevin Toliver Essang Bassey
2019 4 Bradley Chubb Jake Butt Nico Falah Austin Fort
2018 4 Emmanuel Sanders Ron Leary Max Garcia Jake Butt
2017 2 Billy Winn Jake Butt
2016 1 Vance Walker
2015 1 Jeff Heuerman
2014 1 Jordan Norwood
2013 1 Von Miller Chris Harris Jr.
2012 0

They had as many as six in a season since 2012, but Austin Fort and Jake Butt may have both been on there two years in a row with the same injury.