Several candidate predictors for the occurrence of surface fissures in cartilage, including impact force, shear stress, and tensile strain have been previously proposed without an analytic basis. In this study a controlled impact experiment was performed where a dropped mass and three impact interfaces were used to identify loads associated with the initiation of fissuring. A Finite Element Model of each experiment was used to obtain stresses and strains associated with each impact event. The resulting experimental and analytical data were analyzed using logistic regression in order to determine the strongest predictor of a fissure, and thus to propose a failure criterion for articular cartilage during a blunt insult. The logistic regression indicated that shear stress, rather than impact force or drop height (an indicator of impact energy), was the strongest predictor for the occurrence of a fissure.