What Is the Most Dangerous Sport in the World? (Ranked)

From football to basketball, there are countless sports that capture our attention and push athletes to their limits.

However, some sports come with a higher level of risk and danger than others.

The most dangerous sports in the world are considered to be the following for the following reasons:


  • Combat sport with padded gloves.
  • High risk of head injuries and brain damage.
  • 90% of pro boxers experience brain injuries.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA):

  • Combines various martial arts disciplines.
  • Risks include concussions, broken bones, joint injuries.
  • Higher injury rate than other combat sports.

American Football:

  • Known for physicality and high-impact collisions.
  • Risks include concussions, spinal injuries, fractures.
  • Highest rate of catastrophic injuries among high school sports.

Base Jumping:

  • Jumping from fixed objects with a parachute.
  • Significant risk due to low altitude.
  • 381 deaths recorded between 1981-2019.

Big Wave Surfing:

  • Riding waves up to 100 feet or more.
  • Risks include drowning, impact injuries, collisions.
  • Extreme conditions faced by surfers.


  • Determining the most dangerous sport involves multiple factors.
  • No sport is completely safe.
  • Prioritizing safety is critical.

Below we look into more detail what is the most dangerous sport in the world, examining the risks involved, providing examples, case studies, and statistics to support our findings.

The Definition of “Dangerous”

Before we delve into the specifics, it is important to establish what we mean by “dangerous” in the context of sports.

A dangerous sport is one that poses a significant risk of injury or even death to its participants.

This risk can arise from various factors such as high speeds, physical contact, extreme weather conditions, or the nature of the equipment used.

By and large, we used this criteria and considerations:

  1. Objective Ranking: Factors like injury rates, severity, and long-term health risks determine danger.
  2. Safety in Sports: No sport is 100% safe.
  3. Extreme vs Traditional Sports: Both can be dangerous, but extreme sports often have higher risks.
  4. Safety Measures: Constantly evolving to reduce injuries.
  5. Reducing Risk: Proper training, safety equipment, and rule adherence.
  6. Age Restrictions: Vary by sport based on physical and mental maturity.
  7. Banned Sports: Some, like bullfighting, banned due to high danger and animal welfare concerns.
  8. Emerging Dangerous Sports: Activities like parkour and freerunning can be risky.
  9. Insurance for Athletes: Higher premiums for those in dangerous sports.
  10. Legal Implications: Possible, especially if safety measures aren’t followed.

The Factors That Determine Danger

When determining the most dangerous sport, several factors come into play.

This might determine the criteria for what makes a sport dangerous.

These factors include:

  • Frequency of injuries: How often do injuries occur in a particular sport?
  • Severity of injuries: What is the potential for severe or life-threatening injuries?
  • Long-term health risks: Are there any long-term health risks associated with the sport?
  • Equipment and safety measures: What safety measures are in place to protect athletes?
  • Environmental factors: Does the sport involve exposure to extreme weather conditions or hazardous environments?

The Most Dangerous Sports

Based on the aforementioned factors, several sports stand out as being particularly dangerous.

Let’s take a closer look at some of them:

1. Boxing

Boxing is a combat sport that involves two opponents throwing punches at each other while wearing padded gloves.

Despite the use of protective gear, boxing carries a high risk of head injuries, concussions, and long-term brain damage.

According to a study published in the Journal of Combative Sport, 90% of professional boxers experience brain injuries during their careers.

2. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed Martial Arts, also known as MMA, combines various martial arts disciplines such as boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The sport allows striking and grappling techniques, making it highly intense and physically demanding.

MMA fighters are at risk of concussions, broken bones, and joint injuries.

A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that MMA has a higher injury rate compared to other combat sports.

3. American Football

American football is a popular sport in the United States known for its physicality and high-impact collisions.

Players often experience concussions, spinal injuries, and fractures due to the nature of the game.

According to a study conducted by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, football has the highest rate of catastrophic injuries among high school sports.

4. Base Jumping

Base jumping involves jumping from fixed objects such as buildings, cliffs, or bridges while wearing a parachute.

It is an extreme sport that carries a significant risk of injury or death due to the low altitude and limited time for parachute deployment.

The World BASE Fatality List reported that between 1981 and 2019, there were 381 recorded deaths related to base jumping.

5. Big Wave Surfing

Big wave surfing involves riding enormous waves that can reach heights of up to 100 feet or more.

Surfers risk drowning, impact injuries from the force of the waves, and collisions with the ocean floor or submerged objects.

The documentary film “Riding Giants” highlights the dangers faced by big wave surfers and the extreme conditions they encounter.

Q&A – Most Dangerous Sport(s)

1. Is there an objective way to determine the most dangerous sport?

While it is difficult to establish an objective ranking of the most dangerous sport, factors such as injury rates, severity of injuries, and long-term health risks can be considered to determine the level of danger.

2. Are there any sports that are completely safe?

No sport is entirely safe, as there is always a risk of injury.

However, some sports have lower injury rates and less severe consequences compared to others.

3. Are extreme sports more dangerous than traditional sports?

Extreme sports often involve higher levels of risk due to their nature and the environments in which they take place.

However, traditional sports can also be dangerous, especially those with physical contact or high-impact elements.

4. Are safety measures improving in dangerous sports?

Yes, safety measures in dangerous sports are constantly evolving to minimize the risk of injuries.

For example, advancements in protective gear and rule changes have been implemented in sports like football and boxing to enhance player safety.

5. Can athletes reduce the risk of injury in dangerous sports?

Athletes can take steps to reduce the risk of injury in dangerous sports by undergoing proper training, using appropriate safety equipment, and following the rules and guidelines set by the sport’s governing bodies.

6. Are there any age restrictions for participating in dangerous sports?

Many dangerous sports have age restrictions in place to protect younger individuals from potential harm.

These restrictions vary depending on the sport and are often determined by the level of physical and mental maturity required.

7. Are there any sports that have been banned due to their danger?

Some sports have faced bans or restrictions due to their high level of danger.

For example, bullfighting has been banned in several countries due to animal welfare concerns and the risk of injury to participants.

8. Are there any emerging sports that are considered dangerous?

As new sports and activities emerge, some may carry inherent risks.

For example, activities like parkour and freerunning, which involve acrobatic movements and jumps, can be dangerous if not performed with proper training and precautions.

9. Do professional athletes in dangerous sports have higher insurance premiums?

Professional athletes in dangerous sports often face higher insurance premiums due to the increased risk of injury.

Insurance companies take into account the nature of the sport, the athlete’s experience, and their injury history when determining premiums.

Participating in dangerous sports can come with legal implications, especially if proper safety measures are not followed or if injuries occur due to negligence. Athletes may be required to sign waivers or assume responsibility for their own safety.


In conclusion, determining the most dangerous sport in the world is a complex task that involves considering various factors such as injury rates, severity of injuries, long-term health risks, safety measures, and environmental factors.

While sports like boxing, MMA, American football, base jumping, and big wave surfing are often considered among the most dangerous, it is important to remember that no sport is entirely safe.

Athletes and sports organizations must continue to prioritize safety and take steps to minimize the risks associated with these activities.


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