The World’s Most Dangerous Sports

Sports are supposed to be great for our physical and mental well-being. They force you to exercise, teach you to work within a team, and create strong personal relationships. Athletes also tend to be more well-rounded socially, and they find great success in team-centric environments like the workplace.

However, sports aren’t perfect, thanks to rampant injuries and even deaths. All sports present risk of physical injury, but some are more dangerous than others:

American Football

Football fans can’t help but celebrate a good sack. It’s so fun to cheer on a good tackle that you almost don’t notice how many injuries occur each game, not to mention during practices. There are an average of seven injuries per game in the NFL, many of which present life-long problems for the athlete.

Concussions are among the biggest concerns because they can result in significant brain damage, particularly with repeat offenses. Thankfully, the NFL has taken great strides to prevent life-altering injuries of this type.

“Because most safety concerns in football revolve around damage to the brain, the NFL has been working to improve the players’ helmets,” says Taylor Shuman of the news publication InMyArea.

Shuman notes a tighter fit and greater absorption to protect the brain during impact.

“As a result of new helmet designs, the NFL announced in April that it would prohibit 10 older helmet designs that the league deems are unsafe. This is the first time that the NFL has ever banned specific helmets,” Shuman states, concluding that exciting changes are being made to decrease serious injuries in America’s favorite sport.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is one of the oldest sports in the world. Horses were once the primary mode of transportation for humans, although cars overtook their popularity in the early 20th century. A sport with so much history can’t be overly dangerous, right?

Actually, horseback riding is very dangerous, particularly in the competitive realm. A study from the University of Calgary revealed that 20 out of every 100,000 rodeo contestants will experience a catastrophic injury during a rodeo event.

Horseback riding is dangerous even when you’re not competing, as one commenter on the publication The Top Tens reported:

“The first time I was bucked off I fractured my arm, sprained my neck, pulled a muscle in my leg, and dislocated my knee. When my cousin was a toddler she walked behind a horse and got kicked so hard she flew ten feet, became cross-eyed and since she hit a fence, she became paralyzed from the neck down. So yeah, horseback riding is VERY dangerous on and off the horse.”


If you think American football is dangerous, it’s nothing compared to rugby. It’s a sport very similar to football, with the constant collisions and running at breakneck speeds to reach the goal line, but without the benefits of helmets and shoulder pads.

As you can imagine, this game can result in some pretty gruesome injuries.

“Rugby players use their whole bodies to play the game, leading to the controversial use of shoulder barging, body checking and the lifting tackle,” says an article from Pledge Sports. “These plays contribute to the concussions, torn ligaments, dislocated shoulders and even tetraplegia, that players can end up with.”

Concussions are among the most dangerous injuries for rugby players, and in 2001, these head injuries led to the deaths of more than a dozen professional players, according to Pledge Sports. Since that time, steps have been taken to reduce injuries on the field and encourage safer collisions – if that’s possible.


It shouldn’t surprise you to see boxing on this list. When two people are hitting each other repeatedly all over the body, including the head, injuries are imminent.

Although bruised kidneys, broken bones, strained muscles, and dislocated joints are common, the chief concern is a traumatic brain injury. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 90 percent of professional boxers will experience a serious brain injury before their careers end.

Injuries would be less traumatic if more concern was given to injuries during the match, according to Jose Espinoza of

“Time and time again, boxers drop to the mat with such force that hitting the deck is what wakes them up,” he says. “Being neurologically short-circuited or concussed once is sufficient reason to stop a fight right then and there. Instead, more often than not, boxers are given the protection count and if they are capable of fighting, the match resumes.”

Espinoza notes that 70 professional boxers died between the years of 1998 to 2006, underscoring the need for greater protections in the boxing ring. It’s no wonder that it’s considered one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

Melissa Thompson

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.