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The 15 Most Dangerous Sports in the World

By Vlad Craciun


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Now this is a difficult topic. We all know sports are dangerous. Ask someone who’s done sports in their life for some time and almost anyone will tell you how they’ve gotten injured one way or the other. It’s just how it is with sports. Well, if you think about it, being alive is a danger in itself.

But some sports activities, and especially the extreme ones, have a level of danger that can’t be matched by anything else. The hard part here is figuring out which ones are the most dangerous. If you take into account the overall number of injuries, you might find that cheerleading and fishing are in the top 10. Surprising, isn’t it? If you take the number of people who practice a sport, it may sound like skydiving is overall safer than football. Take the number of fatalities and climbing Everest tops the list with over 1 in 10 people dying. If you call that a sport and not a suicide attempt, that is.

With pieces of statistical evidence spread around all over the internet and no database to centralize everything for a long enough period of time, it’s hard to come up with an accurate list of the most dangerous sports in the world. And how do you define danger in the first place? Given these facts, we’ve tried to come up with a list of the 15 Most Dangerous Sports in the World, based on how risky the activity is and how many chances of dying there are while practicing the respective activity.

So here is our list of the 15 most dangerous sports in the world:

15. American Football

American Football

It may be hard to believe, but football is one of those very dangerous sports. It’s so common that most of us don’t see it as dangerous anymore, but if you count all the victims American football has done over the years, you’ll get the picture.

In the past, football was even more dangerous than today, with early games leaving dozens dead on the field. Head to head collisions were often the culprit for most of the deaths and life-changing injuries, as the protective gear was rudimentray compared to what you see today. But even nowadays, broken bones, neck and head injuries and various other concussions are the norm in football.

14. Free Diving

Free Diving

While scuba diving is considered more dangerous than contact sports because of its many perils, there are a few other related disciplines which are even more dangerous. Free diving is one of them.

This sport implies diving as deep as possible without using any breathing equipment and gas like the ones used in scuba diving. While freediving is definitely beautiful and pure by diving with no gear in the most unnatural element for humans, often deep down ocean holes, it certainly takes its toll. Between 2006 and 2011, there were 417 recorded freediving accidents, 308 of them being fatal.

13. Bull Riding

Bull Riding

Bull riding may not be associated with extreme sports, but it surely is dangerous. As some bull riders put it, you either walk out of there on your own legs, or take your next ride in an ambulance or a hearse. That’s because one of those bulls, who weigh up to 1800 pounds, can literally crush a fallen rider under their weight. And you can imagine the injuries.

12. White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting

Moving over on our list to more adrenaline junkie territory with white water rafting. Riding an inflatable boat on a river might not sound like a dangerous activity in the beginning, but what if we add the wild waters of some rivers and the perils of smashing onto rocks or getting stuck under the boat or under rocks? Broken bones and drowning are some of the common white water rafting accident outcomes.

11. Rugby


With even less protective gear than American football and two 13 player teams smashing against each other, Rugby gets its share of victims, with plenty broken bones, torn ligaments and dislocated shoulders, not to mention over a dozen of dead players after 2001.

10. Big Wave Surfing

Big Wave Surfing

Surfing looks cool, but big wave surfing is the next thing for the grand masters of the sport. With waves that go up to intimidating heights, the courageous enough surfers need to be towed onto the waves to catch them, and that’s where the fun begins. But the greater the fun, the greater the danger, because surfing a 100 foot wave doesn’t come without hazards.

Being pulled under such a wave is nothing to play with since drowning or being smashed against underwater rocks are some of the biggest perils of this sport.

9. Downhill Mountain Biking

Downhill Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is many people’s favorite activity when it comes to taking a relaxing trip into the nature. The extreme side of it is downhill mountain biking, which is riding down a steep and narrow mountain trail past precipices, rock formations and trees as fast as possible. Or as fun as possible. Often times though, that sort of fun can end up with major fractures, head and spinal injuries, internal bleeding and organ damage or even worse.

To better understand the risks, consider alpine skiing. The statistics say that there’s 1 injury to 1,000 skiers. When it comes to downhill mountain biking, the numbers go to 1 injury per 10 riders. Now that sounds like a lot riskier, doesn’t it?

8. Auto Racing

Auto Racing

With hundreds of kilograms of metal wrapped around you and going an average of 150 miles per hour on hard asphalt and a chance of 1 in 100 to die in a crash, car racing is definitely one of the most dangerous sports there are.

You might think that technology has evolved over time, increasing the safety of the suits and helmets and therefore the overall safety of the driver inside a race car, but technology works both ways. The cars are a lot faster than before and accidents more violent as well. Since 2001, there have been more than 40 fatalities on race circuits around the world.

7. Motorbike Racing

Motorbike Racing

If car racing is dangerous, then consider motorbike racing, where the rider isn’t protected by a sturdy cage that race cars have in case of accident. And then add racing down a track at an average speed of 120 mph trying to be the first one to the finish line.

Then if normal motorbike races aren’t enough, there’s the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, which is considered the most dangerous race in the world. Racing down public roads at insane speeds, avoiding obstacles, stone walls and homes just feet away is sure to give shivers down many people’s backs and the right thrills to a crazy few.

6. Heli Skiing

Heli Skiing

What do you do when a ski resort isn’t enough anymore? Oh well, you pay a helicopter pilot to get you up some of the most terrifying snow capped peaks in the world and ski down the entire mountain while at the same time trying to remain in one piece until the end.

Heli skiing is probably the most extreme sport out there for the winter adrenaline junkies. We know there are a lot of people scared of flying, and especially with a helicopter, but that’s the safest – and the least fun – part of this sport. Skiing downhill is the best part. That if you don’t get swept by an avalanche, freeze to death in bad weather far away from civilization or plunge off a cliff in the meantime.

5. Swooping (Skydiving discipline)


Skydiving is clearly on the side of the extreme sports, but what not many people know is that there is a relatively new discipline in skydiving called swooping. People in the game say it’s a lot more fun and spectacular than regular skydiving. If you can call jumping out of airplanes regular.

Swooping, or canopy piloting requires skydivers to fly as close to the ground as possible as fast as they can. There are already a lot of swooping competitions taking place all over the world but – as you might expect from such a sport – a lot of injuries and fatalities as well. Swooping has spurred a lot of controversy even within the skydiving community around the globe, and a lot of members debate if they should consider swooping a real sport or plain stupidity.

No matter which side you’re on, it’s clear that swooping is among the most dangerous things you can do today.

4. Wingsuit Flying

Wingsuit Flying

Most people probably haven’t even heard about wingsuit flying, but this sport has come a long way since its inception back in the mid 1990’s. Wingsuit flying is an extreme sport in which pilots use a special jumpsuit that allows them to gain more lift and glide horizontally through the air after jumping from a plane or a cliff. The achieved rate of descent is approximately 80% lower than for a normal skydive, which allows for longer and more distant flights.

And that is the sole reason why it was widely adopted by skydivers and BASE jumpers all over the world. From setting new distance records and flying in formation to flying as close as possible to mountain sides, rock walls and trees, wingsuiters are pushing the limits of what a human being is capable of. But sometimes, these audacious undertakings fail and the sport takes its toll. There have been 162 recorded deaths since 2002, with the last two in December 2018 as of this writing.

3. Free Solo Rock Climbing

Free Solo Rock Climbing

If having a parachute on your back still gives you a chance of getting out in one piece from some extreme fun, free soloing doesn’t give you that opportunity. Rock climbing is a tough, demanding and dangerous sport to begin with. Even with all the ropes, harnesses and protective gear, there aren’t too many people out there who practice it for those very reasons.

And then there is free solo climbing, which implies that no climbing gear apart from climbing shoes and chalk is used during the ascent. Without ropes, harnesses or any safety gear, every mistake the climber does can lead to his or her death or, in the best case, serious life threatening injury. The high profile climbers who attempt free soloing rely entirely on their abilities.

One of the main reasons they do it is the simplicity and the intense concentration required. Think of it like meditation, but a very, very dangerous kind of meditation.

2. High Altitude Mountaineering

High Altitude Mountaineering

With a 1 in 10 chance of dying trying to conquer the highest summits of the Himalayas, high altitude mountaineering sits at number two on our list of the 15 most dangerous sports in the world. So far, there have been 297 recorded deaths on Everest alone since the first climbing attempt back in 1922.

The perils that accompany climbing high mountains are most related to the lack of oxygen at such high altitudes. Human beings are simply not made to live up there. To get an idea, if you take a person and put it above 8,000 meters (26,000 ft), he or she would die in less than 2 minutes due to insufficient levels of oxygen. That is often called the death zone in a mountaineer’s vocabulary – the altitudes above which human life is not possible. And then count in the avalanches, falls, crevasses, ice collapse, frostbite and various other medical conditions due to the often bad weather.

1. B.A.S.E. Jumping

B.A.S.E. Jumping

There are a lot of dangerous sports out there, but base jumping seems to claim more and more victims with each passing year since its inception. And if you think of it, it’s somewhat clear from the very beginning that you don’t have too many chances of survival when jumping off a cliff or the top of a tall building.

B.A.S.E. stands for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth which literally translates into jumping from everything that’s high enough for a parachute to fully deploy before hitting the ground. Plain and simple, right?

The sport appeals to many thrill seekers around the world and has probably made the most victims in the shortest time period, with the fatalities list growing larger and larger with each passing year. According to the BASE Fatality List (BFL), which is an unofficial record of BASE jumping fatalities held by the community since 1981, the number of deaths has reached 362 already. And while many would think the first years in a sport to be the deadliest, in BASE jumping it’s the other way around. The worst year was 2016 with 37 deaths, followed by 2018 with 32.

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About Vlad Craciun

Vlad has over 7 years of experience writing content about subjects such as travel, cars, motorcycles, tech & gadgets, and his newly discovered passion, watches. He’s in love with two wheeled machines and the freedom and the thrills that motorcycle travel provides. Learn more about Luxatic's Editorial Process.

5 thoughts on “The 15 Most Dangerous Sports in the World”

  1. I guess you had to get in a sport that US Americans watch because that’s the only way US football makes this list and professional cycling, which killed seven racers in 2016 alone, didn’t. Football is equivalent with sports like Ice Hockey but nowhere near as dangerous as Luge, cycling, boat racing, bull fighting, hai-lai, surfing, boxing, UFC, etc etc. There’s been one casualty in NFL history

  2. I think gymnastics should have been up there. It is insanely dangerous. It has been proven that is in top 5 and some of these sports aren’t dangerous. Every year 100,000 gymnasts die from this sport. And yes, I do agree with Warre, I do believe that free solo rock climbing should be number one.

  3. I have no idea where you have gotten your statistics but you may be confused with injuries. There have only been a handful of deaths in the sport of gymnastics. However, when it comes to injuries, it’s close to 100,000. Approximately 86,000 injuries which come to a 2.5% chance of suffering an injury while competing in gymnastics. I agree with both of you when it comes to Solo Climbing. It’s definitely more dangerous than anything else on this list. I don’t know how Football even made it on the list.

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