Watching Sports is Something That Everybody Loves to Do… Now Add in a Bit of Risk And You Won’t Be Able to Take Your Eyes Off It…
Sport is one of those things that brings people together like nothing else. Who doesn’t get excited by the Olympics or the World Cup or the Superbowl? It brings people together in anguish and celebration that is so difficult to describe in words.
But some sports are riveting because they’re so dangerous. If the athlete is literally putting their health at risk to prove that they’re the best at what they do, then that’s something special. Knowing that they are risking broken limbs or even death for your entertainment is crazy.
So today, let’s check out the 30 most dangerous sports in the world today. Some are obvious, while others might surprise you. Enjoy!
30. Pole Vaulting
Pole vaulting is one of those sports that looks pretty cool on TV during the Olympics, but you always wonder how do people get started in this sport in the first place? Vaulters launch themselves almost 20 feet into the air while trying to clear a bar set at a particular height. It looks very graceful but a lot can go wrong.
The weight of the pole vaulter puts a lot of tension on the bar. While it rarely happens at the highest level, things can go wrong. The pole can break, sending shards through the air and the vaulter must have sublime body control or else risk breaking their bones from crashing into the ground. Not as easy as they make it look.
Yes, you read that right. Swimming is actually statistically one of the most dangerous sports on the planet because of the sheer number of global fatalities. The US Center for Disease Control reported that from 2005 to 2014, 3535 people died annually from drowning unintentionally (non-boat related injuries) in the United States alone.
That doesn’t count the number who suffer from swimming pool-related injuries. So that’s an average of about ten deaths per day in just one country. According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third biggest cause of unintentional death. That’s pretty crazy so think of that next time you go for a dip in the pool.
The first of several types of motorcycling on this list, motocross is a hugely demanding sport. Riders have to be superfit to be able to control their bike at high speeds on rough, uneven and slippery terrain. ACL injuries and ankle sprains are very common, with crashes and flying debris two of the most common problems you’ve got to deal with on the bike.
Since 1949, 103 riders have died from MotoGP events. Dirt bike racing is incredible. Riders can literally take off the ground on their bikes as they fly over hills and bumps, but if you come crashing back down to earth then you could be in a whole load of pain.
What goes up must come down. That’s your physics lesson for today. In the case of mountain biking, you come down a hillside very, very fast. Many participants end up battered, bruised and cut up from their ride. Normally there are a ton of obstacles in your way that make this potentially very dangerous.
Crashing into a tree isn’t the best way to end your day. Think about all of the stumps, bumps and holes in the ground. Collisions are common because of the speed these guys go down mountainsides. It’s a mad sport but very fun to watch.
Longboarding is skateboarding taken to the next level. Basically, you’re on a longer, wider board that goes faster. So naturally, you’re also at a higher risk of injury as well. The Brigham Young University in Utah carried out a study on the differences between the two activities and the conclusion was clear.
Longboarders are at much greater risk of head fracture, traumatic brain injury and bleeding inside the skull (intracranial haemorrhage) than skateboarders. The majority of deaths come on the streets from collisions with cars. We call that natural selection.
Some call it the most dangerous eight seconds in sport. Bullriding is still a legitimate sport with modern-day cowboys sitting on the back of heavy, angry bovines who aren’t exactly happy to have a human there. You’re supposed to stay on the animal for as long as you can while holding on with one hand raised in the air.
These days riders wear a lot more protective equipment than back when you literally had the hat on your head and the shirt on your back. When you come off the bull, you’ve got to cope with the risk of getting stamped on and gored by a hefty beast that will weigh an average of 1500lbs.
To the uneducated eye, Nascar can be extremely boring. Just a bunch of cars going around a track in circles for a few hours right? Well yes, sort of. But it’s also a very high-risk sport. Over the course of 500 laps, there is the opportunity for a whole load of crashes, with drivers trying to dodge each other at speeds of up to 200 mph.
Nowadays, because of technological advances, deaths in Nascar are at an all-time low, with the most recent one coming in 2001, with the tragic passing of Dale Earnhardt. Driving a car very fast is not the safest activity folks. There have been 28 fatalities in the sport’s history.
Mixed Martial Arts combine elements from boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – as well as other martial arts – in one big extravaganza. It has seen a massive increase in global popularity over the past decade. Funnily enough, it’s not exactly super-safe because you want to either knock out or choke out your opponent.
Broken bones and damaged ligaments are two of the most common injuries, alongside the likes of lacerations and brain trauma (although not as bad as boxing.) One of the other dangerous parts of this game is the weight cutting that fighters put themselves through. You risk long-term damage and in extreme cases death before you even put one foot in the cage.
In America, they play American Football. Everywhere else, they play rugby. While US football fans might think it’s slow and boring, the reality is anything but. It’s an incredibly physical sport, minus any protective padding, so players absorb all of the hits, slams and tackles into their own bodies.
As a result, concussions are a massive problem in the sport. It turns out a 240lb guy running into you will actually hurt you. Big surprise I know. Other injuries include lacerations, broken bones and torn ligaments. You truly have to be a special breed of human.
Gymnastics is just for wimps with folks bouncing around in leotards, right? Well, did you know that it was originally devised to prepare men for war? This Olympic sport tests the perfect combination of core strength, flexibility, agility and control. There’s also a lot of risks involved too.
The sport has a justifiable reputation for injuries like fractured wrists and ankles, cartilage damage and even fractured spines. You’re putting your body under a lot of strain so that it’s literally fighting itself to pull off these stunning moves. Elite gymnast Julissa Gomez was infamously paralyzed after landing on her neck in 1988.
There were 176 cyclists in the 2019 Tour de France. They travel at an average speed of 25mph (40kmh) which might not seem a lot, but when you hit the ground you’re definitely going to know about it. Cycling is a very physically challenging sport and that’s just when you’re on your bike. You’ve also got to stay on it…
Crashes do happen and when they do there’s usually a bit of a crazy pile-up. Broken limbs are commonplace. Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome missed the 2019 instalment after a horror crash caused him a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs. He had just tried to blow his nose…
You’d be forgiven for thinking that ice hockey is basically sanctioned fighting with sticks. Players are travelling at high speeds on ice, in an enclosed arena with hard walls. What could go wrong? There’s a reason this is one of the most exhilarating team sports to watch out there in the world.
A lot of players lose their teeth because they don’t have masks on their helmet. That puck travels fast and will remove your incisors in an instant. It’s an extraordinarily physical sport, with injuries commonplace. Even those big pads don’t help protect you 100% from hitting the ice hard.
Yep, we all knew that this was going to be on here. Huge, hulking men violently slamming into each other? Of course, this is a dangerous sport. The amount of massive hits in the NFL is one reason why the sport is so popular – but player safety is something the league is desperate to improve.
In 2017 there was 271 report diagnosed and documented concussions. That means there were a whole load more that players didn’t report so they wouldn’t miss games. It’s not just about head trauma either. Head trauma, fractures and ligament tears all happen in this truly tough sport.
Are these guys just insane? This is one of the most breathtaking events on the planet, held and hosted by ESPN. Basically, a festival for the most extreme tricks in sports, with skateboarding, motorbiking and even snowmobile stunts all being shown in this incredible competition for people with a death wish.
Because these guys are flipping into the air so high, the risk of crashing and literally burning is extremely high. We’ve seen the likes of Jake Brown’s shocking fall but he crazily managed to walk away unscathed. Sadly in 2013, Caleb Moore died in a snowmobile crash, the first fatality from the X Games.
A racehorse can weigh anything between 1000-1200 lbs. Now imagine all of that weight underneath you and you’re making it go as fast as you can while jumping over hedges? Yes, being a jockey is an exhilarating and terrifying experience. The risk of injury is massive.
Irish jockey Ruby Walsh suffered an incredible 21 major injuries throughout his career. And we’re not counting his insane amount of concussions in there. Nope, we’re talking ruptured spleens, broken legs, ribs, arms and collarbones. Oh, and the risk for horses is massive. 202 died in the UK alone in 2018.
Few sports look as cool as big wave surfing. This is actually more than a sport – it’s a lifestyle. You could be riding a wave at anything from 50 to 80 feet. That’s incredibly high and if you fall off the board and come crashing down… well, that’s a long way to drop.
There’s a whole bunch of risk involved with this one. First of all, if you’re swept under by a 60-foot wave you better be good at holding your breath. And it’s not exactly nice hitting the bottom of the ocean either. Broken bones and ruptured eardrums are commonplace. Deaths happen all too frequently too. But if you love something…
Some people might scoff at this one, but statistically, soccer or football has the most injuries per sport on the planet. The sheer possibilities are endless. From ligament injuries to leg-breaks, every game that you watch will probably have at least one player go off needing medical attention. We’ve even seen teeth get knocked out.
One of the big issues in the game though is the laissez-faire attitude towards concussions. Many players still continue after a head collision which has been the topic of frenzied debate. Also, there’s been some talk of stopping children from heading the ball because it could increase the risk of future brain damage.
This is definitely one of the most exciting Winter Olympic sports to watch, because of the sheer insane speeds involved. Basically, you lie on your back on a metal sled, while going down an icy replete with sharp turns, winds and serious drops. All the time you’re trying to control it with your body without any brakes.
When you’re going at 100kmh any crash that happens is going to be serious. Deaths do occasionally occur in the sport, with the most recent Winter Olympic death coming in 2010. Georgia’s Nodar Kumaritashvili died following a brutal practice one. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted.
Jumping off a cliff attached to an elastic cord… Some will say that this is more of an activity than a sport, but hey, it can also be a competitive event. There are dedicated bungee jumpers out there willing to risk their lives to set new, insane records so they definitely deserve their place this high up the list.
The overwhelming majority of bungee jumping fatalities occur because of equipment malfunctions. Basically, somebody probably hasn’t done their job properly and checked that everything is ok. One other issue is the potential for vision loss. Bungee jumping has been known to cause eyeballs to haemorrhage.
When you jump from a certain height into water, it’s not going to cushion your fall. You may as well just run headfirst into a brick wall. Being a professional cliff diver is one of the most dangerous sporting pursuits out there. As well as the threat of hitting the water hard, you have to know what’s underneath like rocks and debris.
Professionals jumping from 148ft will hit the water at as fast as 150mph. That’s a crazy speed. Broken bones are just one part of the problem. If you’ve got an injury like that the risk of drowning is greater too. And many of these divers do it in remote places away from emergency services. Not worth the risk folks.
So many sports on this list show how humans want to explore the natural world and push their own physical boundaries at the same time. Cave diving is right up there with the rest of them. A stand-alone sport where divers go into the darkness, with no clear way back to the surface and facing narrow areas and chambers, yeah you can see why it might be a little bit dangerous.
Divers have to think about so much when they’re going into caves. Most will use some sort of tether or guide so that they can find their way back. They’ll also bring some type of extra light source. You need to know your gas supply or risk decompression. If the lights go off it’s a scary world under the ground.
Non-US readers might not be familiar with the Iditarod. Basically, it’s a 938-mile sledge-dog race through Alaska in winter weather that can reach minus 100 F. For some people, this is their idea of fun, but unsurprisingly, it’s not exactly the safest sporting event on the planet. You’re literally putting death and survival against each other in the harshest conditions to win the title of greatest dog musher in the world.
Extreme cold, hypothermia, brutal winds, frostbite and hallucinations are just some of the conditions that many mushers will face during their 8 to 15-day trek through the Alaskan wilderness. While no humans have died – yet – it’s extremely hard on dogs, with 154 canine fatalities in the history of the race.
What could be more dangerous than diving into a cave where you might get lost in complete diving? How about diving with no oxygen at all? That’s what freediving is. The best freedivers, who use no scuba apparatus or snorkel, can hold their breath for up to ten minutes. But there’s always the one who pushes too far past the limit.
This is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Freedivers can go up to 200 metres below the water without fins and obviously risk drowning. One of the biggest issues though is the threat of shallow water blackout. This is an underwater faint brought on from lack of oxygen to the brain.
Regular skiing is dangerous enough, with an average of 41.5 deaths per year. It turns out that zooming down a mountain on pieces of wood isn’t the best form of self-preservation. Who knew? Well, for some people that’s just too safe and sanitized. This is where helicopter or outback skiing comes in.
Basically, you get dropped in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles from civilization. This means if something goes wrong you are absolutely screwed. Outback skiers risk big threats like avalanches and volatile weather. Even the risk from crashing is maximised when nobody knows where you are.
According to BestHealthDegrees.Com, you have a 1 in 60 chance of dying if you’re a base jumper. Let’s give you another number for comparison. Bungee jumpers have a 1 in 500,000 chance of dying. Basically, BASE jumping is parachuting or wing-suiting off a building or a cliff. Some people think this is a good idea.
Needless to say, the risks are extreme. One of the biggest is that the parachute just won’t open properly over such a short distance. Another is that the jumper won’t have enough time to stabilise their body before they open the parachute, spinning out of control. And if you hit the ground, it’s not going to be good…
Motorcycle racing is breathtaking to watch – the little you see of it in the split-second that a bike passes you by. The relationship between the rider and their bike is something special. Every turn and twist they take must be timed to perfection because if anything goes wrong, they’re going to be tasting asphalt.
There are an extraordinary amount of deaths in the various form of motorcycle road racing. In the Isle of Man TT, there have been 252 fatalities. When you add up all the global events from Grand Prix racing to the Endurance series etc. the numbers are staggering. But these guys love what they do…
One of the most niche sports on this list that you probably haven’t heard of it is Jalilkattu. It comes from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and competitions are held during the Pongal (harvest) festival. Basically, it’s like bull-riding on steroids and has been condemned by animal rights activists.
Over 200 people have died in this sport over the last two decades. There are different variants. In one, the participant has to try and hold onto the bull for a certain distance to win. In another, you actually have to try and subdue the animal in an open field. It’s officially been banned in India but is still played in villages across Tamil Nadu.
High-altitude climbing is one of those crazy things that people get obsessed by. It’s not cheap either, as people will literally spend thousands to potentially die on the world’s highest peaks. The risks with high-altitude climbing are obvious, with the risk of falling debris and falling yourself two big things to worry about.
The biggest threat though might surprise you. High altitude sickness kills climbers like nothing else. The first stage causes headaches, insomnia, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. When it gets to the second stage – high-altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) your brain starts to swell. 11 climbers on Mt. Everest died from this in 2019 and their bodies are stuck up there.
Yeah, this is an obvious one. Boxing is one of the most dangerous sports on the planet and probably the most dangerous mainstream combat sport. The main reason is that there is just so much brain trauma taken by fighters. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says that 90% of boxers get some sort of brain injury.
Deaths are all too common in this sport. Between 1884 and 1995 there were approximately 500 fatalities. In 2019 there have been two tragedies with Maxim Dadashev and Hugo Alfredo Santillan dying in the same weak. The problem is that they take so many punches to the head compared to other combat sports.
Climbing a mountain is dangerous enough. So how about climbing a rock face or a building with absolutely no equipment, except a bag of chalk? Free Soloing is one of the most dangerous sports on the planet as you’re literally millimetres from death with every move you make.
The sport’s profile has come to prominence over the last couple of years thanks to the incredible documentary Free Solo which showed climber Alex Honnold’s journey as he tried to climb El Capitan. 31 climbers had died trying to do it before he succeeded – and that’s just one peak. The death rate is incredible with even seasoned and experienced climbers at risk. It’s a way of life for these guys and girls.