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.Overall, 77% of injuries to quarterbacks happen above the waist, compared with 33% for players in all other positions. Knee and lower leg injuries account for 53% of all NFL injuries across all positions.

Quarterback

Most common
Shoulder

Head/brain

Arm/elbow

Hand/wrist

Chest/spine

Abs/hips
organs

Upper leg

Knee

Lower leg
ankle/foot

Most common
Lower leg

All other positions

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

See more detail on player injuries

Who is hurt the most?Average number of plays per injury

Special teams players are injured most often, at the rate of once per 50 plays, or an average of more than once per game. 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

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

See the full breakdown of injuries by position

Injuries to special teams players have not gone unnoticed. Last season, in an attempt to reduce the velocity of hits, kickoffs were moved to the 35-yard line (from the 30) and coverage players were limited to a 5-yard running start.

Offense
Defense
Special teams

SOURCES: FootballOutsiders.com, ProFootballFocus.com.