10 Most Difficult Sports in the World

No, this isn’t based on personal opinion. Experts have actually conducted research scientifically, and determined the most difficult/physically demanding sports. In this article, we’re starting off with the top three most difficult sports according to “Page 2” on ESPN (more on that later), followed by the top three most difficult Summer Olympic sports, and then the remaining four are picked and chosen from other various lists and rankings. Not strictly the “top most difficult”, but difficult enough. And now, let’s see.

Research based on “Page 2”, ESPN

A group of experts gathered and came up with ten sports attributes:

  • Endurance
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Flexibility
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Nerve
  • Durability
  • Analytic aptitude

They ranked these categories from a score of 1-10, with 10 being the most difficult. The scores are added and averaged, and the higher the score out of 100, the harder it is. And the top three most difficult sports according to this study are:

1) Boxing

You could argue that many other types of sports require intense, grueling training, but what makes boxing the most difficult of them all? Apparently, it’s the nerve required to take part in this sport. In most other sports, getting injured is most likely a byproduct, but in boxing, very simply, you’re kind of signing up to get injured, because your opponent’s goal is to hurt you. The “nerve” category for boxing is ranked a high 8.88, and its average score is 72.375.

2) Ice Hockey

With an average score of 71.75, ice hockey comes in second. Firstly, because you need a pre-requisite: knowing how to skate. So skating can be considered a separate skill, and then you have to be comfortable handling a hockey stick, while skating, and chasing down the puck. Speaking of the puck, it’s extremely hard, so a hit to the head can prove to be fatal. Falling on the ice, also painful and dangerous, not to mention there’s also the danger of blades from the skates. It’s also fast-paced and full of action, and resulting injuries can be very damaging.

3) (American) Football

Probably the most popular sport in the US, football takes third with a score of 68.375. Rules of play are apparently derived from rugby and soccer (football), and there are two eleven-player teams. With 22 people trying to catch hold of the same ball and scoring it through the opposing team’s goalpost, you can imagine how that will play out. It’s a high contact sport, and can require a lot of brainpower to come up with strategies to win as well.

Research according to six sports medicine professionals and this Insider article

Insider asked six sports medicine professionals to name the toughest Summer Olympics sports based on physical, mental, and technical strength needed. This is what they came up with:

4) Water Polo

There are quite a number of things you have to do when engaging in a game of water polo. You’re trying to score with the ball with lots of splashing and reduced visibility, and you’re also trying not to drown because your feet don’t touch the bottom of the pool. So you have to tread water for about 30 minutes at a time, trying to score points, and sneak in blows not unlike ice hockey or football (soccer). It’s a lot to do, especially in terms of strength and endurance.

5) Gymnastics

If you’ve watched gymnastics, you can perhaps begin to guess at just how much work is needed to pull off stunts, perform choreography, and mold your body into seemingly impossible positions. Obviously, gymnasts need a high level of balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance, and mentally they need to be able to focus on their stuntwork, even after a fall or when things go wrong. There are also many aspects to gymnastics, and a gymnast really utilises his or her whole body to perform this sport.

6) Swimming 

It actually tied with a couple of other sports according to certain parameters, but this was swimming was mentioned first, so we included swimming. First of all, the resistance of water is more physically demanding on the muscles, and then you have to co-ordinate your breathing properly. When it comes to the technical aspects of swimming, there are so many styles to train in, and you’re also gunning for speed. It’s one thing to be able to swim, and another to do it as a competitive sport.

And the rest are chosen at random from other lists, but they’re still difficult.

7) Football (Soccer)

There could be other sports than are more physically demanding, but football requires plenty of skill and stamina. Games are also quite long at 90 minutes, so that can be quite taxing both physically and mentally. Apparently, it is also harder to score a goal in football (soccer) than to score a goal in (Amercian) football.

8) Tennis

Hand-eye coordination, flexibility, agility, strength, and speed are the few things you need to play a good game of tennis. There are also different shots and methods to master, not to mention the mental strength required. A lot goes on in a game of tennis as you have to keep your eyes on the ball at all times, and decide what to do with it in a split second. Without strength and speed, the game would be over too soon.

9) Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing is basically sliding downhill on a snow-covered slope with fixed-heel bindings. Essentially, you attach yourself to these strips, have skiing poles to help your steer, and you hurtle down a slope. Just like that. Alpine skiing is further broken down into five different disciplines in the Winter Olympics, and they each test different technical aspects including speed and technique, or both at the same time. Due to its nature of being fast and having lots of obstacles, skiing can result in some pretty severe injuries.

10) Basketball

Again, there are many things required of a person when playing basketball. Hand-eye coordination is one, as is endurance, strength, and stamina. The duration of the game itself is 48 minutes (four 12-minute quarters), but basketball games taking into account timeouts and other intervals can last anywhere from two to three hours. There’s a high level of skill involved as you try try to shoot the ball into the hoop, but first, you have to get the ball, protect the ball… or block other people from getting the ball into the hoop. And with such a long game time even though not all of it is in action, it can also be taxing mentally.

Do you agree with the experts? What do you think is the most difficult sport of all?