What Is The Most Dangerous Sport?

Humans love sports. We’re thrilled by skilled competition, dazzling displays of hand-eye coordination, and impossible acrobatics that entertain, inspire, and sometimes cause severe injury.

However, that doesn’t stop us from participating in all manner of sporting events with varying degrees of intensity and danger, which begs a clear definition of what a sport actually is. The Oxford English Dictionary defines sport as “An activity involving physical exertion and skill, [especially] one regulated by set rules or customs in which an individual or team competes against another or others.” That encompasses the usual suspects such as football and baseball, but could be interpreted as including activities like darts, bowling, auto racing, or eating lots of hot dogs really, really quickly

According to Bandolier, an independent journal written by Oxford scientists, BASE jumping is a great way to die. It tops the list with odds of 1 in 2,317, which the report notes are worse odds than dying from car accidents, gunshots, falls, and natural disasters combined. Next is swimming, with odds around 1 in 57,000, followed by bicycling, running, and skydiving, in that order.

One report by the now-defunct health data company HealthGrove (via Fox 17 West Michigan) lists basketball as the high school sport that caused the most injuries in 2016, barely edging out football. That aligns with data from a 2017 study from the National Safety Council, listing basketball, football, and soccer, respectively, as the three most dangerous sports in terms of the raw number of injuries suffered. On the bottom of that list? Tobogganing. Obviously.

Meanwhile, a 2009 study of professional boxers puts injury risk at about 24 percent per fight, but bear in mind that a pro boxer’s standard for what constitutes an injury is probably higher than the average person’s. MMA fighters rank similarly for injury. Given that fewer people perform these sports, their ratio of injury to competition is much higher overall.

Despite its high stakes, risk of death in auto racing is mitigated by there being fewer overall participants on average, along with more professionalism and safety measures strapped in and riding shotgun. It’s still incredibly dangerous, with 28 driver deaths in the history of the NASCAR premier series, the last being Dale Earnhardt in 2001, and more in races like the Le Mans, which once saw over 80 spectators and a driver killed in a 1955 crash. If only they had gone tobogganing.

In short, all sports bring a degree of danger, but your odds of death are highest if you BASE jump, and your odds of injury are highest in MMA and boxing. If you want a tip on how to stay safe, here you go: just never try any sports for the rest of your life. Better safe than sorry, right?

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