The World’s Deadliest Sports Are Not For The Risk Averse

Sports | 10/20/20

The majority of sports come with risks. From baseball to basketball to football, the games we love to play all involve risking our bodies for an adrenaline rush. For anyone really looking for a thrill, there are more extreme sports that come with major risks. From free solo climbing to heli-skiing, certain activities will make your life flash before your eyes. But which ones are the deadliest? Keep reading to find out!

Wingsuit Flying Is Only For The Biggest Risk Takers

Wingsuit Flyers in Switzerland dangerous sports
Thibault Gachet/Red Bull via Getty Images
Thibault Gachet/Red Bull via Getty Images

Across the board, not many extreme sports will give you a bigger rush than wingsuit flying. A flyer puts on a flying squirrel-inspired suit, finds a cliff face, jumps off, and glides until they safely land.

Not all landings are happy ones, though. According to one study, roughly 1 in 60 jumpers will lose their lives. Any false move while gliding could result in severe danger, including squeezing through small holes in rocks or sweeping too close to the ground.

Free Solo Climbing Provides Zero Lifelines

free solo climbing
Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What happens when you take rock climbing and remove your safety measures? It’s called free solo climbing, and it’s one of the most death-defying extreme sports you can try.

The best free solo climbers in the world only attempt climbs after trial runs with safety equipment. Even with all that practice, accidents happen. The sport is so deadly, that it’s only reserved for the “elite of the elite.” One of the most dangerous rock faces to free solo is El Capitan, which was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo.

Cave Diving Can Be A Scary Trap

Cave Diver underwater
Martyn Farr / Barcroft Media / Getty Images
Martyn Farr / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

The dangers of cave diving should be pretty obvious. You strap on your scuba gear, grab a flashlight, and dive underwater to explore a cave. But what happens if sediment kicks up and you lose visibility? Or you get lost and run out of oxygen?

Every year, it is estimated that three to eight people will die from cave diving. Before even attempting the activity you need to be highly trained, for your own safety.

Heli-Skiing Should Only Be Attempted In Movies

snowboarding in canada
EyesWideOpen/Getty Images
EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

Heli-skiing is exactly what it sounds like. You strap on your snowboard and skis, then take a helicopter up to dangerous heights and hope can get back down safely. It’s a sport that seems like a stunt that should stay in movies, but plenty of enthusiasts attempt heli-skiing every year.

If you land wrong, you risk getting stuck, breaking bones, hypothermia, and even avalanches. On average, around 100 people are lost heli-skiing every snowy season.

BASE Jumping Isn’t For The Faint Of Heart

base jumping athlete
Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Chris Jung/NurPhoto via Getty Images

While it may seem similar to wingsuit flying, BASE jumping could not be more different. If there is one thing the two sports have in common, it’s how deadly they are. Every year around 15 people die from BASE jumping.

“BASE” stands for “Building, Antenna, Span, and Earth.” Each letter represents your options for what you want to jump off of. Just remember to release your parachute before it’s too late!

Cliff Jumping Involves A Dangerous Water Landing

cliff jumping in Mexico
Elizabeth Fitt/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Elizabeth Fitt/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

There are a number of things that can go wrong if you ever attempt cliff jumping, so it’s no surprise that more than a dozen reported deaths occur every year. Jumpers tend to be competitive and will try and outdo each other from higher heights.

The most extreme jumpers will include flips or other body movements in their routines. The most dangerous part, of course, is watching out for rocks jutting out of the cliff face and landing correctly in water from such great heights.

Scaling Everest Is A Costly Affair

scaling mount everest
GESMAN TAMANG/AFP via Getty Images
GESMAN TAMANG/AFP via Getty Images

Attempting to scale Mount Everest is perhaps the most dangerous version of high-altitude climbing. The mountain is notorious for how many people perish trying to reach its peak. Dangers include altitude sickness, frostbite, hypothermia, hypoxia, and snow-blindness.

To qualify as a high-altitude climb, you must ascend over 8,000 feet. In 2019 alone, 12 climbers died trying to ascend Everest. In total since 1922, 306 climbers have perished, proving there is a very dangerous risk for the final reward.

Big Wave Surfing Is A High-Pressure Sport

Big Wave Surfing by an extreme athlete
Stefan Matzke – sampics/Corbis via Getty Images
Stefan Matzke – sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

Surfing is one of the most popular activities from coast to coast. For some, just hitting regular waves isn’t enough, and they go on the hunt for bigger and badder ones. Big wave surfers ride through tunnels that can reach heights of 100 feet.

Like other extreme sports on this list, the dangers are obvious. Any failed run could lead to getting caught under the water, getting crushed under the pressure of the wave, and other scary situations. It’s reported that 10 surfers die a year on big waves.

Freediving Requires Strong Lungs

attempting a freedive
VICTOR YUSLIH/SIFC2019/AFP via Getty Images
VICTOR YUSLIH/SIFC2019/AFP via Getty Images

Freediving is when you take a deep breath, then dive underneath the surface of the water and far as possible before coming back up for air. This extreme sport takes away the safety of scuba diving but has the same, if not more, dangers.

In the recorded history of freediving, there have been 417 accidents. Of those accidents, 308 have resulted in death. This is not a sport we could ever recommend you trying.

Mountain Climbing Isn’t Always As Safe As It Seems

mountain climbing
Anton PodgaikoTASS via Getty Images
Anton PodgaikoTASS via Getty Images

The good thing about mountain climbing is that, unlike with free solo climbing, there are safety precautions taken before you begin your ascent. Still, accidents happen, and they become deadlier the higher you get in your climb.

According to Rock and Ice, 40 climbers were lost in 2019, showing just how dangerous mountain climbing can be. Even the most experienced climbers are exposed to the dangers of the sport if anything goes wrong.

There’s Nothing Safe About Bull Riding

professional bull riding
Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s amazing to think that people get paid to ride bulls. There is nothing safe about this sport. Riders are tasked with staying atop a large and angry animal for as long as they can. Once they are thrown from the bull, they then have to run to safety.

Surprisingly, only two riders die on average every year on the professional circuit. Life-altering injuries, including serious spinal or brain injuries, occur commonly.

Steep Creeking Is Extreme Kayaking

extreme Kayaking
Hermes Images/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Hermes Images/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Anyone looking to take their kayak experience to the next level has probably tried steep creeking. In this sport, you take your kayak and traverse more extreme waterways that feature white water rapids and waterfalls.

The most common accident is getting your kayak overturned, which unfortunately puts the rider in a desperate situation. On average, steep creeking claims 15 victims a year. Paddle with caution or stay out of the river entirely!

Horseback Riding Can Be More Dangerous Than You Might Think

horseback riding
Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images
Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images

Horseback riding is one of the most common recreational sports in the world, and because of that it probably doesn’t seem that dangerous. No matter what you think, there is an inherent danger in interacting with a large animal that could turn on you at any moment.

Every year, it is estimated that over 100 people lose their lives horseback riding. And head injuries occur at a rate of 10 to 20 times that.

There’s Not Much Room For Error When Hang Gliding

hang gliding in japan
John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images
John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hang gliding seems relaxing. Once you achieve lift under your glider, you get to gently float in the air, taking in the sights and sounds around you. Just don’t get too relaxed. One bad gust of wind or other unexpected error could be costly.

Overall, one in 560 pilots dies each year. While other extreme sports have more fatalities per year, the death rate shown here is still higher in comparison, making hang gliding one of the deadliest sports in the world.

Swimming Is Surprisingly Dangerous

extreme swimming
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Another sport that seems mild is swimming. Professional swimmers make it look easy, which can lead to issues for recreational swimmers, especially those who train in lakes or oceans. Once trouble hits, though, you can’t always rely on yourself to be strong enough to fight the tide.

On average, 3,500 swimmers are lost to waves each year. To be clear, we’re not trying to scare you away from going to the beach, but making sure a lifeguard is nearby is never a bad idea.

Skateboarding Won’t Just Break Your Bones

skateboarding
Adam Pretty/Getty Images for LUMIX
Adam Pretty/Getty Images for LUMIX

Any sport that you need to wear a helmet and knee pads to participate in is obviously dangerous. The question is, just how dangerous is skateboarding? The activity that’s popular with teens and adults alike gets more dangerous based on the tricks you want to attempt.

According to reporting, roughly 40 people die per year skateboarding. The most common cause of fatality are cars, followed by hill bombs. Serious injuries include broken bones and concussions.

Football Is A Full-Contact Sport

college football players
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

While football at the highest level is mostly safe (fatality-free), the sport, in general, is rife with deadly encounters. One study estimated that there are nearly 12 deaths per year related to the hard contact sport.

Of those numbers, the study concluded that eight of those 12 were indirect (systemic) while the other four were traumatic. The study, undertaken by PubMed, was first published in 2013 and focused on high school and college football players.

Skydiving Puts You One Mistake Away From The End

skydiving stunts
Skydive Dubai/Getty Images
Skydive Dubai/Getty Images

The dangers in skydiving are inherent the second you put on your parachute and get ready to jump out of a plane. If your chute fails to deploy, or you deploy it too late, you stand very little chance of landing safely.

In 2019, the United States Parachute Association reported that 15 skydivers lost their lives. In 2017, that number was 24. One of the worst years for the sport was 2001, when 35 skydivers passed away.

Skiing And Snowboarding Leave You Exposed To High Speeds

Snowboarding downhill
Yilmaz Kazandioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Yilmaz Kazandioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Going downhill at high speeds, no matter how much safety equipment you’re wearing, is dangerous. Skiers and snowboarders can reach speeds of up to and beyond 40 miles per hour, leaving little room for error on a run.

During the 2017 snow season, Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance reported 600,000 injuries on the slopes and 54 deaths in the United States alone. Most of those deaths happened on intermediate runs while 31 percent happened on expert runs.

White Water Rafting Is Risky Business

white water rafting is dangerous
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

An extreme sport that is truly for the adrenaline junky is white water rafting. With courses ranging from class 1 to class 6 danger levels, most rafters should stick to the easy runs.

A class 6 rapid is considered nearly un-runnable and should only be attempted by those with years of experience. From 2007 through 2016 there were 500 recorded white water rafting deaths. On average that is just over 55 deaths per year.