The Deadliest, Most Dangerous Professional Sport Isn’t What You Think

Sports, in general, are dangerous just because of their very nature. They require us to push the limits of our bodies to reach new heights of physical existence. But sometimes we can push too high and, just like Icarus, we can get burned pretty bad. We took a look at some of the most dangerous sports in the world and came up with a list that factors in the rate of injury, the prolonged effects on the player, and how many people die each year.

Here are our most dangerous sports in the world.

15. Street Luge

Believe it or not, this uniform will usually keep luge riders safe. | Robert Cianflone/ALLSPORT

You would expect this sport to be at the head of the pack. Surprisingly, it’s pretty safe … relatively speaking. Only 25 deaths were recorded between 2008 and 2011. While the injuries are pretty severe, they are rare because of some serious efforts for safety precautions like full leather outfits and motorcycle helmets.

Next: Never would have thought of this sport.

14. Cheerleading

Cheerleaders fall hard. | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If you actually think about it, this sport should be much higher. NFL cheerleaders don’t always perform crazy aerobatics, but some of the athletes are getting tossed 30 feet in the air. If their teammates miss the catch on the way down, there’s nothing to protect their head. It is also considered one of the most dangerous high school sports in America. More head injuries are caused by cheerleading than high school football.

Next: This next sport makes complete sense.

13. Skiing

woman skiing in mountains
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that skiing is dangerous. | FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

There are a thousand ways you can imagine that someone could die on a ski mountain. When you think about it, it’s amazing Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn has survived this long. You can get hit with an avalanche, hit a tree, fall in a tree well, or just hit the ground wrong while riding on the expert trails. But the majority of deaths occur on groomed, easy to moderate runs. A seemingly simple run can turn tragic in the blink of an eye.

Next: This is what happens when you enter an environment not meant for humans.

12. Scuba Diving

Scuba Diving
There’s a lot that can go wrong underwater. | Emily Irving-Swift/AFP/Getty Images

Aside from the obvious risk of drowning, scuba diving can kill you in so many ways. You can surface way to quickly, there could be a bad mix of gas in your tank, you could bump your head on a rock, and let’s not forget about sharks! Well, let’s not, but know that sharks aren’t really all that dangerous if you leave them alone.

Next: Things are bound to get more dangerous once you start adding animals into the mix.

11. Bull Riding

Surprise! Bull riding is really dangerous. | Natalie Behring/Getty Images

Bull riding used to be way more dangerous. Now they wear bulletproof vests so they don’t get gored, but the helmet is still optional, so there’s that. We still don’t understand why someone would want to sit on top of a pissed off bull.

Next: Here’s another way to piss off a bull. 

10. Bull Fighting

Bull fighting is an injury waiting to happen. |  Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

It’s an archaic sport, but it is still played around the world. For some reason, people think it’s a great idea to stab a two thousand pound creature that has very sharp horns and can crush your skull if they get on top of you. Every year, there are dozens of injuries in professional bullfighting. However, that number could be a lot higher because of the number of incidents that don’t go reported year round. Add the element of a weapon and it becomes just slightly more dangerous than bull riding.

Next: This seems like it would be a relatively safe sport. Boy, were we wrong.

9. Polo

Zara Phillips
Stampeding horses and mallets. What could go wrong? | Jason O’Brien/Getty Images

If you think about it, there’s a person precariously saddled atop a horse swinging a heavy mallet around their head, trying to hit a ball that’s six feet below them. This sport does claim lives and causes some pretty horrific injuries for both the rider and the horse. Some have claimed that it is more dangerous than boxing, but we disagree.

Next: What do you expect from a sport that plays with almost no protection and spikes?

8. Rugby

Carlin Isles with the ball during a rugby game against South Africa
Rugby is very dangerous. | Jack Megaw/USA Sevens Rugby

Nothing like a couple hundred pound men slamming into each other with no padding whatsoever. While we’re at it, let’s throw some spikes on the bottom of their feet. Does that sound safe? Rugby is one of the toughest sports known to man, and the danger level is insane. Yet, every year, thousands of people play the sport around the world.

Next: You probably don’t even know what this sport is.

7. Jai Alai

There’s the threat of instant death in Jai Alai. | Nicolas Mollo/AFP/Getty Images

If you do know what Jai Alai is, then you know how hard those rubber balls can be. Now imagine that hard rubber ball traveling upwards of 200 miles per hour. It’s not uncommon for those balls to strike someone in the face and kill them instantly. With the sport being less popular now than it was just a few years ago, the number of people playing has gone down. That doesn’t change the dangers of the sport.

Next: The arena is literally wild and completely unpredictable. 

6. Hunting

Hunting shotguns on haystack during sunrise in expectation of hunt
There are a number of hunting deaths each year. | splendens/iStock/Getty Images

It really changes the dynamic of a sport when your opponent is very capable of killing you. On top of that, hunters aren’t very safe. Roughly 70-80 people die each year from hunting accidents. The number of animal attacks is really high, but could be higher because of the lack of reporting or people considered missing.

Next: If something goes wrong, there’s nothing you can do to stop yourself from dying.

5. Skydiving

You better make sure your chute is packed correctly. | iStock

You can imagine what it would be like to go skydiving and have your main shoot fail. There would be a quick moment of panic, then you remember you have a reserve shoot. But what do you do when that one fails? There is literally nothing you can do except hope that you can bounce. Even if the shoot works out, you can get stuck in the trees, on power lines, or even get hit by a passing plane. It’s a sport that is not for the faint of heart.

Next: I’ll stick to the beach, thank you very much.

4. Surfing

Surfboard on the beach
There are a lot of ways to hurt yourself surfing. | kieferpix/Getty Images

Surfers are true adrenaline junkies. Falling into the water from sea level might sound like a harmless thing, but surfers are usually traveling at a very high rate of speed. On top of that, they don’t just hit the water; they often hit the reef below. If the water and the reef don’t kill them, then the sharks will. All around, you have to be pretty crazy to want to surf.

Next: Surround yourself with explosives traveling hundreds of miles an hour and tell us it’s safe.

3. Racing

There’s no margin for error in motorcycle racing. | EBR via Facebook

Racing is an extremely dangerous sport. Imagine crashing into a wall at 200 miles per hour in either a vehicle or a motorcycle. The chances of surviving that are pretty slim. On top of that, the fuel could ignite and then you’ll be burned to death. It’s a death we wish upon no one.

Next: A sport where the entire purpose is to cause an injury.

2. Boxing

Everyone gets hurt boxing. | iStock

Boxing, and its cousin MMA, are sports where literally every athlete player walks away from with an injury. Whether they be small injuries like a black eye or a fat lip or more severe injuries, they can really take a toll on people. Approximately 10 people die each year in boxing from head and neck injuries sustained during a bout. The number grows much larger when you consider the number of people who die after a prolonged career of getting their heads beaten in. The same could be said about all fighting sports.

Next: You did not expect this sport to be at the top of the list.

1. Mountaineering

A rescue mission to save stranded mountaineers. | Sayed Fakhar Abbas/AFP/Getty Images

You wouldn’t expect it, but mountaineering can be one of the most dangerous sports out there. Each year, there are thousands of people who are injured while mountaineering. Most of those injuries result from slipping on a rock or falling. But the number of dangers in the wilderness is almost insurmountable. Death is common, but more so are missing persons.