top of page
  • Writer's pictureBruin Sports Analytics

Ball to Ball Contact: Which Sports Out Everything on the Line?

By: May Chan and Deshna Govil

Source: WSN


Which sports put everything on the line? Some may say the NBA and others believe the NFL. However, these two sports or leagues involve different factors such as the uniform or gear they wear, the game rules, or the conditions of the stadium. Therefore, the prevalence of injuries are contrasting between different sports as these sports enforce different standards of play. For example, major injuries such as concussions in football are not as common in sports like basketball. Even the respected football legend, Jason Kelce, states in his podcast that playing in the NBA would be more difficult as he observes the athleticism of Lebron James, which he has not seen in NFL players. However, some NBA players think differently as they acknowledge the strength and intensity of the sport of football. Overall, basketball and football are two completely sports yet they both require rigor and intensity, contributing to the potential for major or inconvenient injuries. In order to understand the differences between the professional leagues of basketball and football, it is necessary to analyze differences such as the types or frequencies of injuries in the NFL and NBA. 


For this study, we collected data on the prevalence of injuries between the NFL and NBA, and how they differ between teams.

When analyzing the injuries occurring in the NFL, we first depicted the different injuries within the different teams in the NFL during the years of 2012 to 2014.

The graph above demonstrates the amount of weeks that players were injured within the different teams and the result of these injuries, like if the team had won or lost during those weeks of injuries. The green color, seen in the key, represents if the NFL team lost during that match. It appears that injuries were the most frequent in the year of 2012 as the weeks of injuries are higher compared to the other years. Also, the Oakland Raiders seem to suffer the most with the consequences with injuries. The Oakland Raiders had the highest amount of injuries during 2012 and seemed to have lost the majority of games. However, along the year, it seems that the frequency of injuries decreased for the Oakland Raiders.

Along with analyzing the total number of weeks injured within the teams of the NFL, the graph above also demonstrates the analysis of the frequency of injuries for the different positions of the NFL. It is important to acknowledge that a player’s position may play a role in the amount of injuries for an athlete. The cornerback position appears to have the highest amount of injuries and the most severe injuries of concussion. The cornerback is seen as the “toughest” position in football as they require skills of aggression and strength when defending offensive plays, making hard tackles, and intercepting the play. Therefore, it seems reasonable for cornerback to have the highest amount of injuries compared to the other positions in the NFL as they need the ability to use their body to create or stop plays. The position of the least amount of injuries is the long snapper as they barely have any reported injuries. This position also seems reasonable for the least amount of injuries as this position does not require much physical contact and even requires abilities like mental judgment or decision-making. Therefore, the positioning of players demonstrates a significant role in the injuries of NFL athletes as each position requires different skills and abilities.

The line graph portrays the trend of injuries in the NFL between the years of 2012 and 2014. Based on the graph, the weeks of injuries from 2012 to 2014 seem to decrease as the line slopes downward. It is interesting to note that the NFL implemented rules changes during this period. In 2013, the NFL introduced rules that would protect players that were stuck defenseless specifically when being hit in the head area. Also, a factor that could correlate with the decrease of injuries in the NFL during 2012 to 2014 could be the improved equipment or gear in the NFL. There have been advancements made in the gear of NFL players such as more protective helmets and padding which could reduce the severity or damage of injuries. Overall, with improvements to gear technology and awareness of the injuries made through shifts in rules by sports officials, football may have an even steeper decrease in injuries in the future. 

With the NBA, we first wanted to determine which types of injuries were most common.

Sprained ankles lead significantly, largely due to how players land improperly after rebounds. Approximately 25% of NBA players end up spraining their ankles per season. When comparing injuries per team in the NBA, we see that the Knicks rise to the top, with the highest number of sprained ankles and notable number of sore knee injuries.

Knee injuries are often the most impactful, largely consisting of ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) and Meniscus tears. ACL tears arise from players making sudden changes in direction or landing improperly from a jump, while Meniscus tears result from players twisting their knees that carry weight.

Knee injuries take the longest to recover, with an average of approximately 15 weeks missed. Sprained ankles - the most common - are slightly less consequential, with around 10 weeks of recovery on average.

Following this, we wanted to analyze how NBA injuries have changed over time.

The number of injuries has shown a relative increase over time. 2013 notably witnessed a minimal number of reported injuries. 2021 and 2022 saw a pronounced increase in injuries, particularly in regards to knee injuries. This increase in injuries is likely due to the increased physicality of the sport. Despite its beginnings as a noncontact sport, basketball has become increasingly physical, with players using their forearms and elbows for guarding. The schedule of the NBA has also become more intense, with teams often having games on consecutive nights. This leaves players with less time to recover and an increased likelihood of injury.

Increased speed also affects the injuries of players. Sudden jumps and changes of direction are taxing the body and can often strain muscles and ligaments. Speed affects the number of sprained ankles the most, largely due to how fast-paced play increases the physical toll on players.

Lastly, we wanted to compare the impacts of injuries between the NBA and NFL, to see which sport takes a greater physical toll on players.

In the 2022-2023 season alone, NBA players missed approximately 1518 weeks due to injuries. This is significantly higher than the total weeks NFL players were injured across the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons combined of only 361 weeks injured. This suggests that injuries in the NBA often require longer recovery periods and have an increased severity compared to the NFL. Injuries in the NBA are potentially more serious, which leads to longer absences from play.


Overall, although there are differences in the types or amount of injuries between the two popular leagues of the NBA and NFL, both sports have high injury rates due to the pace of the game and the rigor that athletes contribute in order to win a game. Despite the high injury rates of the leagues of NBA and NFL, athletes continue to put everything on the line in order to pursue their passions and become the best. Based on the article, which sport do you think “puts everything on the line?”




bottom of page