There are plenty of reasons to want to become a professional athlete. Money and fame are two big ones, and making a living by playing a sport is basically a guarantee that one will remain fit. Working out for a living is living the dream for some.
Unfortunately, where there is nonstop physical activity, pain, suffering and injuries will not be far behind. On top of injury, in some sports which involve machines or full contact, there is the potentiality that an athlete will die while playing. Even sports that do not allow full contact can be deathtraps.
Hockey and American football are among the most physical games out there, with devastating hits being dished out in every game. But even look at baseball; a hard ball is being hurled at speeds around 100 mph. Batting helmets exist for a reason. Dehydration is a threat in any sport and among sports with constant strenuous activity, undiagnosed cardiovascular problems can show up at any time the heart and circulatory systems are under pressure.
This is a list of the deadliest sports; determined by how many professionals have died from injuries sustained while playing. This is a tough topic to accurately report on, mainly due to the fact that it is difficult to determine whether some circumstances of death can actually be attributed to an athletic career. For instance, a retired football player suffering from CTE may suffer from dementia and die prematurely as a result.
From in game injuries that result in immediate death to long term conditions that result from a long career, all such factors will be considered when determining what is the deadliest sport. Here are the ten mainstream sports that a person may die from playing. Note that "mainstream" is a prerequisite, as sword-fighting, bear-wrestling and base jumping may be normal activities for "some" people, but we will stick to well known games.
This list will also take into account the number of professionals who have died playing or as a result of participating in these sports, and this will affect ranking of course.
To someone who is not an avid fan, baseball is a slow, boring game that becomes entertaining around the eighth beer. To someone who has actually played, however, there is no shortage of danger in America's favorite pass-time.
From home plate collisions to the fact that a hard ball is being hurled and his around at speeds over 100 mph, baseball can hurt. Ray Chapman and John Dodge (ironic last name) were both hit by pitches and died from their injuries, while Alfredo Edmead collided with a teammate back in 1974 and coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed by a hit in 2007.
Similar injuries can be a threat to cricket players, and while these two sports are not the same thing, we decided to give cricket an honorable mention here rather than give it it's own place on the list.
9 Track and Field
Don't be shocked that this is on the list. There are two sports within the realm of track competition that earn this spot. Pole vaulting and javelin. Salim Sdiri of France was impaled by a javelin back in 2007 but lived to tell the tale. It damaged his liver but ultimately he did not spend much time in hospital. With regard to pole vaulting, the main problem occurs when athletes fail to land on the padded landing area. Four pole vaulters have died since 2002 from such an injury in the United States.
8 Football (Soccer)
Forgive us for saying so, but given how often footballers get touched lightly only to collapse as if they have been shot, there is no question why it has a reputation for being a sport for whiners.
Obviously such a stereotype is not true and cannot be applied to most athletes who play the sport. Between the countless instances of broken legs from body contact, many footballers have suffered from sudden cardiac death. This condition usually results from heart conditions, such as enlarged heart muscles, which are common among athletes who participate in cardiovascular activities for long periods of time.
Football players have also died from blood infections after suffering wounds on the pitch and have even passed away from complications due to collisions and broken bones.
Lacrosse is a violent sport. Slashing is commonplace, the hits are hard and the ball travels with more velocity than a baseball while weighing more. Sure there are pads, but try getting hit by a lacrosse ball going a decent velocity. Add the fact that the game is full contact and fighting is allowed (not encouraged), and that is a mean sport. George Boiardi is the only professional lacrosse player to be documented as having died due to injuries incurred while playing, but 19 high school and college players have passed away while playing over the last 30 years.
6 Horse Racing
While many people see horses as beautiful, intelligent creatures with "pet appeal" similar to a dog, I see a 1000+ lb deathtrap that crazy people ride. There are dozens of documented incidents ranging from crashes and people being thrown off horses to people being trampled. Again, horseback riding can be a great activity but those helmets won't do a thing in the case of an eight foot fall or a trampling.
Rugby is a sport played by some of the toughest men on the planet. as rain or shine, in the mud or in the blistering heat, these masochists will play their match. Almost no padding is worn, and players run full speed and tackle each other. Neck, back and head injuries are common and there have been several cases of players dying from injuries sustained playing and in recent years, former rugby players have been determined to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Boxing is a sport in which the goal is to punch an opponent until your opponent does not get back up. While it may look like boxing gloves are big pillows, they exist to protect hands, not heads or faces. There are well over twenty deaths directly attributed to injuries sustained within the ring. Mexican fighter Oscar Gonzalez is the most recent example. Back in February, he was knocked out in the tenth round of a fight, slipped into a coma and died the next day. Gonzalez was just 23 years old.
While brain damage during a fight is a risk in boxing, professional fighters are known to suffer from degenerative diseases such as CTE and other mental illnesses.
Canada's most popular sport comes in at number four on this list due to a few reasons. Hockey is a death trap. The hockey stick can cause near fatal damage, as Donald Brashear found out, skates can slice necks as Clint Malarchuk and a few others found out (Malarchuk being the closest to dying of those) and of course, heads bouncing off the nearly rock-solid ice surface can cause a whole set of problems.
There have been recorded deaths from neck and head injuries on hockey rinks worldwide, ranging from blunt trauma to neck lacerations. In recent years, hockey players have been the subject of much debate relating to chronic brain injuries sustained over the span of a career. The subject of fighting in hockey has also come under scrutiny as three enforcers; Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak have died in the last ten years, all with histories of mental issues and repeated head trauma. Boogard died of a drug overdose, while Rypien committed suicide, and nobody knows for sure whether Belak actually committed suicide.
2 American Football
Some readers may have a problem with American football placing above rugby on this list, but there are rational points to be made for this placement. The first of these is that football simply has a different nature for hitting and tackling. Head on head collisions are more common in football and due to receivers often looking back to catch a pass, hits on defenseless players will always be an unfortunate part of the game.
Additionally, rugby is a game in which passes travel backward and there is more of a focus on lateral movement, whereas in football, rushing and passing plays move up and down the field with more potential for head on head collisions.
Finally, CTE is a major issue in football and there is a long history of players suffering with serious mental issues long after their careers, sometimes causing death. Junior Seau and Jovan Belcher are two of the most notorious cases, but they are only a few among hundreds.
As previously stated, doctors have stated in recent years that a few former rugby players have suffered from CTE and related conditions, but such afflictions have not reached the point of notoriety within the sport as football. Disagree? Let's see the rage in the comments section.
This one is a no-brainer. Whether it is motocross, NASCAR or Formula 1, racing motorized vehicles is a dangerous activity. There are too many examples of fatalities in motorsports and the sources of injury and death are pretty self explanatory. A driver can either slam into track boundaries, crash with other drivers or even suffer mechanical problems.
Tony Stewart is one racer who ha been involved with two fatalities during auto racing. He recently hit fellow racer Kevin Ward Jr in a notorious event that led to his death earlier this year and back in 1996 his teammate Scott Brayton hit a wall and died instantly during a practice lap. Dale Earnhardt is another example of a racer killed while driving. There are hundreds more.
While safety measures and mechanical aspects of the sport have been improved, it is still the deadliest sport out there.