45 Adrenaline-Pumping, Heart-Rate Inducing Sports From Around The World

By Giovanni DS

Humans are notoriously curious creatures. If it were not for our curiosity, we would not have created any of the inventions we now see around us. Part of our curiosity and our desire to invent new things was most likely brought about by our tendency to get bored. A level of boredom that led us to envision some truly adrenaline-pumping, heart-rate-inducing, and borderline life-risking activities and sports like throwing ourselves off cliffs, crashing into each other in boxes of metal, to testing ourselves in the harshest environments and climates. If this has piqued your interest, then keep reading to learn about some of the most dangerous sports from around the world that we created for the sake of entertainment.

Boxing

The sport of boxing has a long history that can be traced back centuries. The sport became illegal or criminalized, particularly during the Industrial Revolution, only to then become slowly legal again as it grew in popularity in the States and England.

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Boxing is one of the most dangerous sports for the fact that a significant focus of it is centered around punching each other in the head. Players often suffer brain damage, burst retinas, and fractured skulls, to name a few.

Wrestling

Wrestling is another ancient test of strength that was popular amongst the Egyptians and Greeks. The sport is ground-focused and relies on each player to pin the other to the ground by employing a series of hooks, tackles, and grabs.

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It’s an incredibly popular sport that is not without its risks. The competitive and aggressive nature of the sport often leads to players spraining muscles or even breaking bones in worst-case scenarios. Pretty dangerous, but not the worst on this list.

Mixed Martial Arts

While MMA is no spring chicken, it is still the new kid on the block regarding popular contact sports since it only took off in the 1990s. It’s a deadly combat sport where contestants will use whatever they can to win.

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Fighters can use and mix anything from boxing to judo, capoeira, or kickboxing to gain the edge and win. As a result, MMA is notoriously brutal and dangerous, with frequent head injuries, broken bones, and knockouts that result in passing out.

Running with the Bulls

This next one is not really a sport and is more of a traditional event. That said, there is probably nothing as dangerous as bull-running, an extremely popular Spanish tradition where you try to outrun a group of angry bulls.

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Participants are often crushed or bashed around from the sheer strength of the bulls, and in worst cases, gored by their horns. The custom is dangerous to both the participants and the bulls, which animal rights activists oppose.

Bull Riding

Bull riding is another bovine sport that originated around the 16th century and became popular with American and Hispanic cowboys around the 19th century. An ultimate test of endurance and willpower as the rider struggles not to get bucked off.

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The sport is precarious for pretty much the same reasons as bull-running, with the added danger of getting bucked off and hitting the ground hard. This, in combination with the bull’s kicks and charges, makes it potentially life-threatening and fatal.

Jousting

Most of you would think that jousting went the way of the dodo, only knowing about it thanks to movies like A Knight’s Tale. But, the game of knights and kings has experienced a small revival since the late 1990s.

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In jousting, two riders, or knights, are pitted against each other, with the goal being to charge towards and hit each other as hard as they can. Because of this, riders often suffered internal and external injures due to the force of impact.

Irish Hurling

Irish hurling is a lesser-known contact game that originated in Ireland as far back as 1200BCE! Hurling is best described as a mix of football, hockey, and lacrosse, and besides face guards and helmets, it is played without protective gear.

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This is a surprise once you see the damage that their “hurleys,” axed-shaped wooden sticks, can do. The game’s wooden bats and high-speed contact nature means cut noses, throat hits, hamstring, and scrotal trauma are relatively common.

Rugby

Speaking of aggressive contact sports, no list would be complete without mentioning Rugby! Rugby is an extremely popular sport all over the world, loved for its fast and brutal nature. A brutal nature that often leads to a lot of injuries.

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While players wear virtually no protective gear, external injuries are not really that bad. What they do have to worry about is broken bones and head injuries due to the tackling, which makes neck and spinal cord trauma very common.

Pole Vaulting

After everything we’ve seen so far, you might think something like pole vaulting cannot be that dangerous. Well, you are definitely mistaken. After all, we are talking about a sport that involves sprinting and catapulting yourself into the air with a giant stick.

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It is the landing phase of pole vaulting where most injuries occur. While injuries are pretty rare, when they do happen, they are really damaging, such as spinal and pelvic fractures, damaged brain stems, head trauma, and in some cases, death.

Free Climbing

Rock climbing, or the act of climbing in general, is something that has fascinated and attracted thrill-seekers for years. And as with everything, there are those who want to really push the boundaries and test themselves. And this, friends, bring us to free climbing.

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Free climbing is similar to normal rock climbing, except that climbers don’t use any gear that would help them climb. The only gear and equipment they use are safety harnesses and ropes. Meaning, when something goes wrong, it is potentially life-threatening.

High/Mountain Altitude Climbing

While we’re talking about adrenaline junkie climbers, whoever came up with the idea that altitude climbing was fun was indeed a madman. In altitude climbing, a group of daring climbers tests themselves as they try to climb some of the tallest mountains known to exist.

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It often takes weeks of planning before even climbing, with the actual climb taking nearly as long and requiring lots of equipment. The sheer height, hazardous temperatures, low oxygen levels, and loss of equipment are only some of the risks involved.

BASE Jumping

At this point, you’ve just climbed up one of the tallest mountains in the world, and all that’s left is to get back down. Now you could climb back down, or you could be even crazier and BASE jump you’re way down.

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Base jumping is an extreme sport where thrill-seekers throw themselves off of cliffs, tall buildings, and really anything tall using a parachute or wingsuit to glide themselves back towards the ground. Strong winds and malfunctioning parachutes make death a foreseeable possibility.

Cliff Jumping

While base jumping takes the meaning of extreme to the limits, cliff jumping isn’t far behind. Cliff jumping is the slightly less death-wishing sibling, where instead of massive mountains and parachutes, you just jump off cliffs into bodies of water.

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That might sound quite tame at first, but that is where the danger comes in. Diving into bodies of water from a 20-foot height will feel like slamming into solid concrete that may cause you to break and fracture bones, causing paralysis and even death.

Cheerleading

Yes, cheerleading, that old American classic of glamour and mildly questionable entertainment that is a fixture of almost all of their sporting events. Just like cliff jumping, it might seem safe at first until you really think about the dangers involved.

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Cheerleaders pride themselves on creating dazzling performances that incorporate gymnastics and athleticism. Popular stunts are extensions, pyramids, and tosses. Improper form and lack of training can often quickly lead to falls that can break bones and cause whiplash or concussions.

Downhill Longboarding

Longboarding is the more extreme cousin of skateboarding that allows users to speed down long roads and tracks at almost 60 miles per hour! This increased speed is thanks to the board’s longer design, which also makes it much more dangerous.

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While longboarders do wear protective gear, such as pads and helmets, the fact remains that they are still speeding at 60mph along streets that could have potholes, rocks, or cars. Crashes, consequently, can break bones and cause some nasty cuts.

Street Luge

If you thought longboarding was crazy, wait until you read about street luge. Street luge takes the basics of winter or ice luge and adapts it to the streets, with riders strapped onto skateboard-like vehicles as they speed down hills.

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Riders can often travel up to speeds of over 90 miles per hour, with their only means of braking or slowing down is by using their feet. Mistiming when to turn or colliding into cars and objects and tear ligaments and shatter legs is what makes this sport fatal

Steep Creeking

“Creeking” is another intense water-based sport that is similar to kayaking, only much less relaxing. The rowers strap themselves into small kayaks and push themselves down waterfalls into rushing streams, using skill and quick reflexes to stay afloat and dodge rocks.

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Creeking can be incredibly dangerous and requires the right amount of water (not too low or too high). Non-ideal water levels, bad timing, or strong currents can pull paddlers underwater, capsize their kayaks, or slam them into hard boulders and rocks.

White Water Rafting

We aren’t out of the deep end yet. White water rafting is a nerve-racking activity that nonetheless attracts a lot of participants. Even an inexperienced group has no problem climbing into an inflatable raft and paddle their way down a rapid-filled river.

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The term “white water” refers to the whitish color of the water caused by turbulence and trapped air, which makes the currents extremely unstable. Risks involved with the sport are capsizing and being pulled under, drowning, hypothermia, and crashing into rocks.

Big Wave Surfing

Bodies of water are not done with us yet! You really have to wonder why people want to risk getting drowned so much! Big wave surfing is for people who find riding regular waves boring and want to surf under 20-foot waves instead.

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These surfers are extremely skilled, and it is definitely impressive watching them surf through such massive curls. That said, the risks are also very high. The force that the waves generate is powerful enough to knock some out and pull them under.

American Football

American football is Rugby’s weirder but no less aggressive cousin. It’s another full-contact sport that relies on each side’s speed, tackles, and collisions to push their advantage. Unlike Rugby, football players at least wear a lot of protective gear.

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However, this doesn’t mean that the sport is anymore gentler. All the protective gear makes slamming into each even more painful. Concussions, brain damage, broken bones, and fractured ribs are common injuries. Just like Rugby, this sport carries a lot of risks.

Lacrosse

Lacrosse is a posher and less violent form of Irish hurling. Both sports are very similar for the most part, each requiring teams to shoot the ball into the net of the opposing team. Lacrosse requires net sticks, at least.

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While the netting makes it easier to carry the ball and less dangerous than the hurling sticks, that does not mean that no one gets hurt. Broken bones and sprained muscles are common, but so are fractured ribs and punctured lungs.

Wingsuit Flying

If base jumping wasn’t mad enough, wingsuit flying takes it to the next level. Wingsuit flyers, like base jumpers, run and jump off of extreme heights (mountains, planes) without a parachute, using their squire-like suits to glide down instead.

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Wingsuit flying is said to offer one of the best thrills you can get, but the lack of proper controls or the risk of faulty equipment also makes it highly life-threatening. Best case, you break a few bones. The worse case…well, we don’t have to mention it.

Dakar Rally

The Dakar Rally is one of the most famous and infamous motorsports of the modern era, pitting hundreds of competitors against each other to see who can beat the ruthless odds of the trackless 800-mile-long marathon race and emerge victoriously.

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The 10-15 days it takes to complete the race make it a grueling test of endurance and resourcefulness. The number of days and lack of a proper track mean it is very common for competitors to endanger and injure themselves, sometimes fatally.

Horse Riding

Horse riding includes a wide range of different sporting activities from show riding, show jumping, rodeos, and racing. Most equestrian sports are not naturally dangerous, but they can be, and they can cause plenty of long-term injuries to the rider and horse.

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Most injuries are the same when it comes to riding, regardless of the type or what you’re riding on. Common injuries for riders involve some sort of damage to the back, spine, or neck following a fall or by getting trampled by the horse; some are manageable, and others are serious.

Downhill Bike Racing

Downhill biking is a popular off-roading form of bike racing where riders compete across obstacle-filled terrains, going down slopes and hills at around 40 miles an hour and avoiding sudden trees. It’s an exciting but hazardous activity that could potentially cause serious accidents.

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Crashing into obstacles, sheer drops, and sudden loss of control can lead to a host of injuries, ranging from broken bones, fractured ribs, damaged organs, internal bleeding, and severe concussions. Injuries such as these make following the rules and wearing protection especially important.

Luge

Luge, you know, that bizarre winter-themed sport you only hear about and remember existed during the Olympics. It’s an often-forgotten sport that is surprisingly popular and one that is also known as one of the most dangerous sports due to the speeds participants can reach.

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Typically, players can reach speeds of 90 miles per hour as they race down the icy and slippery course. Traveling at such speeds and along such hard surfaces can lead to many serious injuries, brain injuries, and death if players are not paying attention.

Figure Skating

Another winter-themed sport that is considered more of an art form than a sport that combines flexibility, dexterity, gymnastics, and graceful skating techniques. Figure skating is an elegant sport that is all about precision, timing, and execution of masterful poses and spins.

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Most injuries that occur from figure skating are a result of the speeds that the performers can reach and from failing to stick the landing following a jump or spin. Head and wrist injuries, sprained ankles, and torn ACLs are common.

Deep Cave Diving

Scuba diving and the advancement in underwater breathing gear have allowed us to travel further into the deeper places of the ocean. It has allowed many aspiring explorers to realize their dreams of being ocean explorers as they dive into the depths of underwater caves.

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Cave diving is one of the most dangerous underwater activities due to the uncertainty of where particular caves lead to and having to carefully monitor one’s oxygen supply. Running out and going for too long without it can result in brain damage or death.

Baja 1000

The Baja 1000 is another grueling and extreme off-road racing event that takes around 25 hours to complete. Drivers are put to the test along this 600-1000-mile-long track as they make their way through harsh environments and hidden booby-traps.

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The Baja 1000 is now notorious for the booby-traps and acts of sabotage that local spectators leave along the tracks. While they aren’t done to harm the drivers, they are still incredibly dangerous, damaging race cars and potentially severely injuring drivers.

Cycling

Cycling is a popular form of transport for thousands, as well as a favorite fitness pastime for many, seeing it as one of the best cardio exercises there is. That said, they aren’t very popular with drivers who are trying to rush to work.

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If done responsibly and with focus, cycling poses few risks. However, when something does go wrong, it will definitely hurt on account of how little protective gear cyclists wear. Depending on what is around the cyclist, the injuries can be minor or fatal.

Gymnastics

Gymnastics is a loved and celebrated sport thanks to the artful nature of the craft and the level of commitment that is on display from the athletes who strive to achieve poses and stunts that are both graceful and captivating.

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Similar to figure skating and cheerleading, this unassuming sport can still be hazardous if not done correctly. The stunts that gymnastics try to execute can result in broken ankles and wrists, head and neck injuries, or worse, when something goes wrong.

Ice Hockey

This next sport is essentially a combination of ice skating, American football, and hurling all rolled into one. Ice hockey is Canada’s national sport and one of the most aggressive and entertaining contact sports you’ll ever watch if you’re lucky to go to a game.

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Because the game is so fierce, no game is truly complete without multiple brawls and fights breaking out. While the players are well-protected, they are nonetheless vulnerable to breaking bones, teeth, and fingers, being knocked out, and suffering head injuries.

Football

Arguably the most popular and watched sport in the world, football (or soccer) has captivated the attention of viewers from all corners of the globe. While it might be very popular, it is also notorious for the dramatic and overdone acting of its players.

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Because of this, you are probably wondering why it is included in our list. Torn hamstrings and sprained ankles are commonly known injuries, but what is less known is the long-term damage players can suffer from head injuries, the most common being dementia.

Freestyle Snowboarding

When it comes to winter-themed sports or activities, nothing screams cooler than snowboarding. Master snowboarders make the whole thing look effortless, with professional snowboarders elevating it to an artform in freestyle competitions, where they glide and jump through obstacles.

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Snowboarding, when done properly, has fewer risks involved than other sports. That said, snowboarders are still vulnerable to injury due to the speeds they travel at, with the most common injuries being dislocated ankles, sprained wrists, and head and collarbone injuries.

Heliskiing

Skiing, the supposedly less stylish partner of snowboarding, is another wintertime favorite. Most people first learn to ski, seeing snowboarding as more dangerous, when in fact skiing is far more dangerous and even more hazardous when discussing heliskiing.

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Skiing has been reported to cause severe leg injuries such as dislocated ankles and knees and traumatic muscle and tissue tears, most of which require surgery. Heliskiing increases these risks due to the height skiers have to descend and the speed they gain.

Volcano Boarding

This one isn’t a widespread activity or even sport per se, but it was too crazy and interesting, not to mention. Volcano boarding is similar to sandboarding, only instead of sliding down dunes with a plywood board, you slide down volcanic ash!

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Sandboarding isn’t particularly dangerous; the worst it can do is give you a nasty headache if you fall off. On the other hand, volcano boarding carries the risks of inhaling poisonous gasses, cutting yourself on hardened ash or contracting diseases like histoplasmosis.

Lawn Bowling

Lawn bowling is the favored sport of grandparents worldwide and one of the most dangerous in the world! Well, not really. We’re including lawn bowling to debunk the myth that the sport has one of the highest death rates among sports.

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When incorrectly played, older people are more likely to fracture or break hips and knees. The idea that it kills so many players is misleading when you consider the age of the players who die more from old age than from the sport.

Motorsport Racing

Motorsport racing is an incredibly extensive sporting category that includes world popular racing events such as the Formula One and the Macau Grand Prix, to name a few. While there are differences between each event, the risks involved are the same.

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Most of these events require racers to bolt between other drivers and around extremely tight corners at breakneck speeds. Due to this, accidents such as driving into walls, barricades, or other drivers can be outright fatal, resulting in serious injuries or death.

Stock Car Racing

While stock car racing is another motorsport, it has enough differences that warrant it getting its own mention on this list. The most famous example of stock car racing is the American NASCAR series, a notorious deadly sporting event.

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Many of the drivers who compete in stock car racing often started on racing platforms, with several famous drivers coming from events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans racing series. Both of the series we mentioned have caused hundreds of deaths over the years.

Motorcycle Racing

Included in the category of motorsports is the subcategory of motorcycle racing, a category that is only slightly younger than motorcar racing. Motorcycle riding has significantly more dangers than driving a car, dangers that are only increased at competitive levels.

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Most tracks used in competitive racing events are filled with sharp turns, narrow lanes, and often along high and hard stones walls. One of the most famous competitions is the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, which has caused around 150 deaths since 1907.

Polo

Often referred to as the “sport of kings,” polo is an incredibly popular horse and team-focused sport among high society and equestrian enthusiasts and is believed to have first been played among Turkic and Iranian nomads many years ago.

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Polo may be seen as a posh or snobby sport, but it is far from safe. The metal mallets used by the riders, the speed at which the balls fly, and falling off of saddles make the sport extremely dangerous.

Freerunning

“Freerunning” is related to parkour, only it is more focused on creating showier tricks and performances. While neither parkour nor freerunning is or officially recognized as sports due to them not having any competitions, many are trying to address this.

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Because of this and the sheer popularity of the sport, which mixes athleticism and gymnastics, it would be wrong not to include it. As you might expect, a sport that involves jumping from and between buildings can lead to shattered bones, paralysis, or death.

Oceanic Yacht Racing

Now for one of the most dangerous water sports in the world, using a boat that you would never expect to be used for sport. Oceanic yacht racing has competitors compete and sail around the world for months at a time.

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The sheer length and time at sea and the incredibly unpredictable nature of the ocean are why this sport is regarded as so dangerous. Modern technology has lessened the number of deaths, but boats are still known to capsize or break apart.

Buzkashi

Now for another interesting one. Buzkashi is a centuries-old riding sport from Central Asia and is believed to be related to polo. The riders compete in teams to secure a dead goat carcass and place it in a goal points to score.

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The game is still popular within countries like Kazakhstan and Pakistan, with rules changing between countries. If the danger of dozens of horses charging into each other wasn’t enough, riders are also allowed to use whips or fists to dismount other riders.

Cheese Rolling

The last one on our list is more of a fun one than an actual sport—nonetheless, the chances of breaking something while playing is extremely high. Cheese-Rolling is an annual two-century-old event that is held near Gloucester in England.

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Participants stand atop a terrifyingly steep hill where they wait to chase after a 3-4kg wheel of cheese. The sheer slope of the hill makes running down the 180-meter-long hill near impossible, meaning almost all participants end up hurt and bruised.