From Sky Diving To Heli-Skiing: 29+ of the World's Most Dangerous Sports

Sports

| LAST UPDATE 11/03/2021

By Felicia Brown

Nearly all sports have a certain risk factor, but that hasn't stopped people from doing what they love. Check out some of the world's most dangerous sports, from bull riding to sky diving, that people absolutely live for.

BASE Jumping

BASE jumping, an activity blindly bet on a parachute and wind patterns, certainly takes some guts. It involves jumping from fixed objects, using a parachute to descend to the ground. According to TIME, it's illegal in some parts of the U.S.

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BASE stands for four categories of objects one can jump from: Building, Antenna, Span, and Earth. Participants leap from the structure, and after an optional freefall delay, deploy a parachute to hopefully land safely.

Street Luge

Would you expect a leather bodysuit to keep you safe while racing down a hill on your back at about 70mph? Street lugers do! The sport is an extreme gravity-powered activity. With the rider in a horizontal position on a luge board, sometimes known as a sled, they dash down a paved road or course at extremely high speeds.

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Collisions are entirely possible, and lugers must be defensive riders, as they can only use their feet as brakes. So, of course, a lot of training is involved before hitting the track. But all danger aside, competitors of the sport absolutely live for the rush it gives them, and they're willing to take the risk.

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Scuba Diving

Seeing coral reefs, beautiful fish, and the vast underwater world is made possible with scuba diving. Each diver's oxygen tank allows them to move around the water freely. While the sport shows people an entirely new world, some risks are involved, hence why it requires a certification.

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Aside from the obvious risk of drowning, scuba diving comes with many dangers. Rising to the water's surface too quickly, incorrect mixes of gas in your air tank, or you know, sharks, all pose risks when underwater. Nevertheless, scuba instructors help prepare those brave enough to head deep down under.

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Weight Lifting

Professional weightlifting is a sport that's become popular among men and women. It requires focus, endurance, and balance. Although the activity doesn't require much movement, possible injuries can include crushed toes, hernias, or thrown-out backs. Proper lifting technique is a must to avoid pulled muscles and tendonitis.

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At 21-years-old, Tatiana Kashirina won the gold and set two world records at the 2012 London Olympics. She later told her coach, Vladimir Krasnov, that her secret to success is, "Stretching, staying calm with any weight, and going to a sauna three times a week." A sport with encouraged sauna time? It could be worth the risk!

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Soccer

Soccer is considered dangerous because of high injury frequency during games. According to International Soccer Statistics, the game includes a 75% chance of getting a concussion. Leg muscle and ligament injuries are also common. However, the sheer love for the sport keeps many coming back game after game.

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Many professional players have shared that soccer takes a lot of mental strength and is worth the risk of injury to play. Midfielder on the Sevilla team, Ivan Rakitic, said, "The smartest thing I did is I never gave up." Rakitic shares the same mindset as many soccer players around the world, both professional and recreational.

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Cheerleading

Throughout the past few decades, this joyful yet risky and intense sport has risen in popularity. Cheerleaders jump into action, creating tall buildings of people, throwing each other up to 30-feet in the air, and relying on teammates to safely make sure their feet get back on the ground.

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Cheerleading requires precise acrobatics for routines to flow. It's no secret that broken legs, ribs, spinal injuries, and bruises are consequences if a mistake is made. Some don't consider cheerleading a sport, but it poses just as much physical activity and risk as any other.

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Snowboarding

While snowboarding undoubtedly gives people a thrill and a burst of adrenaline at times, there are quite a few risks that come along with the sport. Brave boarders who live for jumps and halfpipes put themselves at risk every time they catch some air, as many don't land correctly and break a bone or two.

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Even beginners who cautiously slide down the slope can potentially take a tumble, either on a patch of ice, while making a sharp turn, or from plenty of other factors. But like every sport on this list, those who are diehard snowboarders take the risk to enjoy a day on the slopes, especially when there's fresh powder!

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Cave Diving

As you already read, scuba diving certainly has its risks, and when it comes to cave diving, you can add a few more risk factors to the list. Anyone who takes on this fascinating sport must carefully navigate through the ocean's natural features, especially when it's dark, as the caves and rocks can be quite sharp.

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Ullstein Bild via Getty Images

"If someone questions the dangers of cave diving, they're fully unprepared to meet the challenge," said Chris Haslam, a RAID technical-diving instructor. Cave diving poses more obstacles than other underwater sports, so participants need proper training to maneuver around rocks and large structures while maintaining their oxygen level.

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Mountain Climbing

Mountain climbing gives daredevils a rush of adrenaline, but it can also be pretty risky, depending on the climate. According to a study by Arnaud Temme of Wageningen University, climate change increases the chance of falling rocks, putting mountain climbers at a higher risk.

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Temme also revealed that global warming causes more rocks to become exposed to open air, making them more likely to tumble down and potentially hit someone. Aside from the chance of missing a step and falling down the mountain, climbers have to take into consideration the current climate to prepare for the natural risks.

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Bull Riding

No matter how prepared a bull rider is, a lot of their fate depends on the bull, so staying on for eight seconds isn't always easy. "You never know what you're going to get," said professional bull rider Mike Lee. "Some days, the biggest and most dangerous bulls are mellow. Other days the smaller bulls… are the most dangerous."

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According to the World Health Organization's Helmet Initiative, professional bull riding results in one or two deaths and multiple spinal or brain injuries each year. "Head injury or not, this is the greatest sport alive - and I live for those eight seconds," Lee admitted.

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Polo

Saddled atop one of the strongest animals alive, swinging a heavy mallet around their heads, polo players aim to hit a ball at least six feet below them. What could possibly go wrong? For starters, competitors must master horseback riding and the game's logistics, which includes swinging the mallet at the right time.

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Luke Walker via Getty Images

Like bull riding, there is that added risk factor of the animal's natural instincts. While horses are easier to train and essentially bond with than bulls, they can still be spooked, potentially causing the animal to throw a person off, resulting in possible injuries from broken bones to concussions.

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Downhill Mountain Biking

While many of us learned how to ride a bike as a kid, going for scenic rides throughout the neighborhood didn't necessarily prepare us for downhill mountain biking. For starters, the trail isn't paved; It's full of rocks and dirt, with plenty of bumps and drops that riders must be prepared for.

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Enduring this rugged terrain gives experienced bikers the thrill they need to keep going, but they're also aware of the risks, ranging from broken bones to concussions and internal bleeding. According to a study by the Paracelsus Medical University, the two leading causes of injury are rider error and poor trail conditions.

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Rugby

With no padding, rugby players slam into each other with the weight of their bodies and spikes on their feet. According to Dr. Sarah Tobin, "1 in 4 rugby players will suffer an injury during a season." She continued, "On average, each player performs 20 to 40 tackles per match," creating plenty of opportunities for injury.

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Getty Images via Stu Forster

Historically dominated by men, the game is gaining popularity among women in recent decades. Most players accept the risks of the game before even stepping on the field. Many rugby injuries are muscular strains or contusions, and some are sprains. Others are dislocations, fractures, or overuse injuries.

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Jai Alai

Jai Alai is a sport played with solid rubber balls that are even harder than golf balls bounced off a wall. Now, imagine that ball flying at you at upwards of 200 mph. It's not uncommon for one of those balls to strike a player in the body or face during the intense game, seriously injuring them.

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Since the ball is often tossed around and bouncing off the three walls faster than the human eye can sometimes follow, taking a hit is part of the game's nature. Likely because of those reasons, Jai Alai has become less popular a sport in recent years, according to GQ's Brad Nash.

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Gymnastics

While gymnasts don't face the risk of falling off an animal or tumbling down an icy slope, their bodies are put through quite a lot and risk many severe injuries. "In 40 years, I've seen a lot," said Iowa State University gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne. "Everything from catastrophic spinal injuries to reparable [injuries]."

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According to Children's Hospital Colorado, "Not only do gymnasts need to be strong and flexible, but they also need to develop speed, balance, and grace - which can lead to injury if not training properly." However, many gymnasts willingly take these risks as they absolutely love the sport.

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Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater rafting gives many adventure enthusiasts the thrill of a lifetime, but it's important to note the danger that comes along with riding through rough rapids. Rafters risk the chance of getting thrown into the water, which poses different threats depending on the weather and the particular body of water.

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According to the Wilderness Medical Society, most rafting injuries are caused by hitting an object, like a rock. People can also suffer from hypothermia if the water temperature is freezing and they're in the river for too long. With that being said, whitewater rafting in rough conditions puts participants at higher risk.

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Skydiving

Many people put skydiving on their bucket list, hoping to experience the adrenaline rush of a lifetime. But what happens if something goes wrong? According to Dr. Anton Westman's thesis on skydiving accidents, injuries from the sport typically result from human error rather than faulty parachutes.

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When high-impact landings occur, skydivers risk dislocating a limb, breaking a bone, or worse: paralysis or a brain injury. But, even with the potential risk factors, as Neil Patrick Harris once said, "It's good to have a lot of once-in-a-lifetimes... If you get the chance to go skydiving, go skydiving."

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Wrestling

Like all contact sports, wrestling puts athletes at risk of various injuries, ranging from a concussion to a broken bone. According to a study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, athletes are more likely to get a concussion from wrestling than playing football.

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Getty Images via Etsuo Hara

"The vast majority of any concussion injury would happen during a takedown," said Jim Guinta of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association. Given the known risk factors, wrestlers and coaches pay close attention to hard falls and closely monitor head injuries to avoid severe long-term damage.

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Auto Racing

Auto racing has been popular since the late 19th century. People of all kinds are drawn to the fast-paced excitement and adrenaline of speeding around a track. Unfortunately, loss of control or high-velocity collisions mixed with highly flammable fuel can result in disastrous consequences instantly.

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Whether a person is racing competitively or for fun, it's crucial to always wear a seatbelt and practice defensive driving at all times. As long as you drive safely, envision yourself driving that beautiful car, channel your favorite character, and live out your Fast and Furious dreams!

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Heli-Skiing

After giving heli-skiing a try, former New York Times reporter, Blake Fleetwood, said, "This was the best day of my life." While it was the adventure of a lifetime, heli-skiing can be quite risky. Especially since this one begins with jumping out of a helicopter into unchartered territory.

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"This is not a sport for sane people," revealed Fleetwood. "Nor is it for people who do not want to take the risks that adventurous sports require." Possible risks of the sport include getting caught in an avalanche, which can cause a skier to get trapped in the trees without anyone knowing they're out there.

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Pole Vaulting

Pole vaulting is considered one of the most dangerous sports of the track and field category, "because you run at full speed, almost 100-meter sprint with a 15 to 17-foot fiberglass pole in your hand, then you're bending it, trying to get upside down to clear a bar in the air," explained pole vaulting coach Chris Hord.

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He revealed that competitors could come up short, the pole could break, or the person's hands might even slip, resulting in possible injuries. But, once pole vaulters accept the risk involved, they put their all into the sport and take in every second spent flying through the air, hoping to take home the gold.

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Archery

Unlike many contact sports, in archery, competitors don't have to worry about banging heads with another person, but the equipment brings its own risks to the game. If all rules are followed correctly, and the arrows are only shot at the target, then there's little room for error. But what happens when someone aims wrong?

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If a human accidentally gets shot with an arrow, they risk getting punctured by the object, which can be extremely painful. According to Illinois Target Archery Association, when using broken equipment, the drawn bow's energy will always go somewhere, so it could hit a person in the face if the arrow isn't launched correctly.

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Big Wave Surfing

Surfing is one of the few sports where participants have to worry about being eaten alive. While the sport is commonly associated with endless summers, beachy vibes, and music that helps you hang loose, surfers can't forget to keep their eyes on the water. Massive waves can pull you into the depths of the ocean instantly.

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Every so often, there are a few unprovoked surfing fatalities caused by sharks. Sharks can grow between 15 to 20 feet, much larger than the average human. Catching big waves can be all fun and games, and a great source of exercise, as long as you're in safe water!

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BMX (Bicycle Motocross)

When it comes to bicycle motocross racing, "No one wants to get hurt or see others get hurt, but it's something that happens," revealed Olympian BMX racer Alice Post. Competitors race at crazy speeds very close to the others on the track, so there's quite a bit of room for error.

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Eresto Benavides via Getty Images

Each rider aims for safety, but ultimately, it's impossible to prevent all accidents. "With BMX, we hit hard. So you have to be a little bit crazy to want to get up and do it again," Post added. She's had some pretty severe injuries over the years, "But it's the rush you get that I keep going back for," Alise admitted.

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Mountaineering

Mountaineering might be one of the most dangerous sports out there. Every year, countless brave souls embark on mountaineering expeditions and find ways to maneuver around the ice and snow. Most injuries result from slipping or falling on a rock or sheet of ice, but the danger doesn't stop there.

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Being up in the mountains at such a high elevation decreases oxygen levels and increases the chance of getting caught in an avalanche. The wilderness dangers can be endless, including everything from hypothermia, frostbite, and even getting lost in the white abyss, so mountaineers must be extremely cautious.

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Wakeboarding

One of the most popular watersports is wakeboarding, and while it may look pretty effortless from the sidelines, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, performing at a lower speed would obviously lower the risks, but there are other factors to take into account.

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Whether it's encountering an obstacle in the water, or needing to get back to the boat after a fall, many people have suffered from injuries while wakeboarding. Shoulder dislocation and arm sprains are also common when it comes to this watersport, especially from hard water impact.

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Hockey

Hockey is a sport where fans can usually count on fights breaking out at any time. Protected by lots of padding, hockey players still suffer from concussions and other head injuries when they come in contact with the ice, other players, boards, or skates. Plus, they've got blades on their feet!

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Players have to manage to score goals while staying on their feet, being body and stick checked by the other team, and gliding across the ice at high speeds. It's a good thing hockey gear includes the protection it does. Those players endure some tiring games in their cold arenas.

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Downhill Skiing

Any sport that relies on nature is already in a vulnerable state, and downhill skiing (also known as alpine skiing) is no exception. Aside from keeping your composure while speeding down a slope with fixed-heel bindings, there are many other dangers to consider.

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Even if the skier is a well-trained professional, like Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn, the snowy mountains can bring about any sort of danger. Avalanches can occur at any moment, as well as falling rocks or trees, depending on the location. While death in this sport is not as common as others, the threats are undeniable.

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American Football

Now, this one surely doesn't come as a surprise. Even if you're not a fan of the sport, the movie Concussion (2015) should've given you a little idea. Professional football's danger is a hot topic that's been discussed for years, and the stats are pretty terrifying.

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According to the National Center For Health Research, many players have suffered from concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and of course, physical injuries too. While the NFL may have implemented rules to protect their players, there's no doubt that football is still a hazardous sport.

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Basketball

Michael Jordan might have referred to the court as his “most peaceful place,” but even the pro himself could tell you of the times his own sport turned on him. While basketball may be responsible for some of the greatest moments in sports history, it doesn’t come without risk.  

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Any contact sport comes with the dangers of severe injuries. According to the Better Health Channel, the most common basketball traumas are due to falls, awkward landings, and abrupt changes in direction. So, mastering the right technique is not only for the purpose of the scoreboard but also to protect the players.

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