A unique position

Quarterbacks touch the ball on nearly every play and are a main target of the defense, so the rules offer them special protection. Since hits to the head were banned in the mid-1990s, the NFL has periodically strengthened passer-protection rules. Because quarterbacks are often more stationary than other players, injuries tend to occur in the upper body.

Who is hurt the most?

Special teams players are injured most often, at the rate of once per 50 plays. Compare that with quarterbacks, whose injuries are more high-profile but less common: They are hurt just once every 236 plays.

Average number of plays per injury

Quarterback

17%Shoulder
Most common

Head/brain

Arm/elbow

Hand/wrist

Chest/spine

Abs/organs

Upper leg/hips

Knee

Lower leg/
ankle/foot

26%Lower leg/
ankle/foot
Most common

All other positions

SOURCES: FootballOutsiders.com. GRAPHIC: Wilson Andrews, Bonnie Berkowitz and Alberto Cuadra.

Offense

Injuries per 1,000 plays

Defense

Special teams

SOURCES: FootballOutsiders.com, ProFootballFocus.com.