We have investigated the densification behavior of sol-gel zirconia films resulting from ion irradiation. Three sets of films were implanted with neon, krypton, or xenon. The ion energies were chosen to yield approximately constant energy loss through the film and the doses were chosen to yield similar nuclear energy deposition. Ion irradiation of the sol-gel films resulted in carbon and hydrogen loss as indicated by Rutherford backscattering spectrometry and forward recoil energy spectroscopy. Although the densification was hypothesized to result from target atom displacement, the observed densification exhibits a stronger dependence on electronic energy deposition.