According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word “assault” originates from the 1200s Middle English term “asaut,” which is derived from the Latin word “assultus,” meaning “to leap.” Assault now is defined as “a violent physical or verbal attack.”* The legal definition of assault refers to an intentional or reckless act that causes another person to be the victim of immediate and unlawful violence.* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorizes the term assault in its Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS™) as “a confirmed or suspected injury from an act of violence where one or more persons uses physical violence with the intent of causing harm, injury, or death to another person, or as intentional poisoning of another person.” Included in this CDC categorization are perpetrators and intended and unintended victims of violent acts, such as innocent bystanders. This category excludes unintentional shooting victims (other than those injured during an act of violence), unintentional drug overdoses, and children or teenagers injured while “horsing around.”

Violence affects people at all stages of life, from infants to the elderly. It remains a significant problem in the U.S., with an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes committed in 2009 alone. All one needs to do is pick up a newspaper in any city or tune in to the local news, and more likely than not at least one story of violence is being reported.

To examine the occurrence of assaults in the National Trauma Data Bank® (NTDB) research dataset for 2008, 2009, and 2010, admissions medical records were searched using the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM). Using the WISQARS intentionality matrix of E code groupings for assault (which can be found in Appendix C on pages 140–142 of the current NTDB Annual Report) revealed that 88,299 assaults occurred in hospital admission year 2008; 82,151 assaults occurred in admission year 2009; and 83,611 assaults occurred in admission year 2010 (see figure).

Violence in America has become synonymous with daily life, and not just for people who live in inner-city areas. Violence knows no cultural, socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, or age boundary. It is a problem that needs to be faced so that it can be stopped. After all, no one wants to worry about the possibility of being assaulted while walking down “Main Street, USA.”

For more information on injury prevention, visit the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Committee on Trauma’s website.

Throughout the year, we will be highlighting data through brief reports in the Bulletin. The NTDB Annual Report 2011 is available on the ACS website as a PDF file and as a PowerPoint presentation at In addition, information regarding how to obtain NTDB data for more detailed study is available on the website. If you are interested in submitting your trauma center’s data, contact Melanie L. Neal, Manager, NTDB, at

Statistical support for this article has been provided by Chrystal Price, data analyst, NTDB.

* assault. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary, Complete and Unabridged 10th Edition.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injury Prevention & Control: Data & Statistics (WISQARSTM). Available at: Accessed August 15, 2012.

Rand M, Truman J. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Criminal Victimization, 2009. Available at: Accessed August 15, 2012.

Tagged as: , ,


Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons
633 N. Saint Clair St.
Chicago, IL 60611


Download the Bulletin App

Apple Store
Get it on Google Play
Amazon store