Hardest Sports in the World – Top 10 Hardest Sports to Compete In

Hardest sports in the world

13 minutes

Last Updated: May 31, 2022


According to most experts and historians, the history of different sports activities can be traced at least three thousand years ago.

Naturally, the very first sports activities usually involved soldiers and warriors who engaged in different sports activities to prepare for war.

Back in the beginning, sportsmen were also hunters, so there is no wonder most early sports activities revolved around throwing rocks, stakes, and spears.

When discussing the history of sports, we also have to mention the very first Olympic Games held in 776 BC. The very first Olympic Games included different events, such as jumping, wrestling, javelin throwing, and chariot races.

The very first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens Greece in April of 1896.

The inaugural Olympic Games event featured athletes from only twelve countries who competed in forty-three different events, including gymnastics, tennis, cycling, swimming, track and field athletics, wrestling, shooting, fencing, and weightlifting.

According to official reports released by reputable sports organizations, over eight hundred different sports are played across the globe.

The most popular sports remain soccer, basketball, tennis, cricket, volleyball, badminton, and tennis. However, here we discuss the hardest sports in the world ranked according to experts.

Our list of the top 10 hardest sports in the world includes boxing, gymnastics, swimming, figure skating, water polo, horseback riding, rugby, ice hockey, American football, and basketball.

1. Boxing

Top 10 hardest sports in the world

Boxing appears first on our list of the hardest sports in the world and this does not come up as a surprise considering different criteria, such as agility, skill, strength, speed, endurance, and physicality.

The hardest sports in the world ranked by experts require not only strength and speed, but also different skills, endurance, and agility.

When it comes to boxing, it is one of the top 10 hardest sports in the world according to the listed criteria.

This is also one of the oldest sports activities as the history of boxing goes back at least two thousand years.

Some experts believe that the sport is even older since some of the oldest walls in ancient tombs depict athletes boxing.

When it comes to modern boxing, it evolved in the sixteenth century mainly in Great Britain. Over the years, boxing became popular in many countries, including the United States, Japan, Cuba, and Mexico among other countries.

What makes boxing one of the hardest sports in the world is the fact that boxers require extreme speed, strength, agility, and endurance.

In boxing, opponents fight each other in a ring. Boxers are throwing punches at each other which makes boxing not only one of the hardest sports in the world but also one of the most dangerous sports since boxers can easily sustain life-threatening injuries.

Despite all the risks, boxing dominates the world of fighting sports, alongside mixed martial arts, judo, karate, and kickboxing.

2. Gymnastics

Worlds hardest sports gymnastics

One of the top 10 hardest sports in the world is gymnastics. This should not come as a surprise if you know anything about gymnastics.

While many do not consider gymnastics a hard or challenging sport, it definitely is. Both male and female gymnasts put their bodies through many different extremes as they are looking for perfection.

The vast majority of professional gymnasts train every single day for at least four hours. Then, gymnastics involves different skills, including balance beam, parallel bars, vault, and floor.

If you take a look at any floor or parallel beam routine, you will quickly realize why gymnastics is one of the hardest sports in the world ranked according to different criteria, including endurance, speed, agility, strength, and physicality.

Gymnastics also requires flexibility, enormous stamina, agility, discipline, body control, balance, and coordination. These are just some of many other skills that professional gymnasts possess.

When it comes to the history of gymnastics, most historians agree that gymnastics originated in ancient Greece.

Needless to say, in the beginning, there were no professional female gymnasts, but only males. In the beginning, most gymnasts were actually soldiers who underwent mental and physical training to prepare for war.

When it comes to modern gymnastics, the sport evolved in the nineteenth century thanks to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn who introduced new exercises for male gymnasts.

The first modern Olympic Games held in 1896 included male gymnasts, while female gymnasts started competing in the Olympic Games in 1928.

3. Swimming

Toughest sports in the world swimming

Third on our list of the top 10 hardest sports in the world is swimming. Like other sports that are listed here, swimming requires a lot of strength, extreme agility, and endurance.

Even if you know nothing about swimming, the sport is clearly on the more difficult side and many experts agree that breaking through the water is similar to weightlifting.

When it comes to the history of the sport, evidence collected over the years suggests that the sport has been practiced in different forms by ancient Roman, Greek, and Assyrian civilizations.

There is also some evidence that swimming in ancient Rome and Greece was one of the major parts of wrestling and martial training camps.

The sport was popularized in the nineteenth century in Britain thanks to the National Swimming Society. The National Swimming Society organized the very first modern swimming competitions in the 1930s. Since 1896, swimming was featured at the Olympic Games.

Only freestyle swimming events were featured at the Olympics until 1904 when backstroke swimming events were included as well. Later on, breaststroke and butterfly stroke were included.

The sport is governed internationally by the FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation).

In addition to managing and organizing different swimming events, the FINA is also responsible for organizing major artistic swimming, open water swimming, high diving, viding, and water polo competitions, including the World Aquatics Championship and the World Swimming Championship.

4. Figure Skating

Top 10 toughest sports figure skating

Fourth on our list of the hardest sports in the world we have figure skating and this should not come up as a surprise if know anything about figure skating.

Athletes who compete in figure skating are extremely tough, possess amazing endurance, agility, and strength.

Needless to say, figure skaters also possess extreme body control and balance skills which are required to gracefully skate on those thick blades. Every single step an ice skater does requires a lot of strength and coordination.

Needless to say, mistakes can bring serious injuries and brutal falls. In fact, the fall is one factor that makes ice skating one of the top 10 hardest sports in the world, since falls in ice skating are oftentimes were painful.

Falling on the hard icy surface can result not only in bruises but also dislocated joints and broken bones. When compared to roller skating, ice skating is doubtlessly more challenging simply because the ice skates’ blades are extremely thin.

Considering all the different skills that go into ice skating, mastering the sport takes years of almost daily practice.

It takes a lot of strength, body control, balance, and coordination to remain standing on those thin blades, and yet, professional ice skaters perform stunning jumps, including the Axel jump that is considered the most difficult.

Speaking of jumps in ice skating, there are six different types, including the Loop, Lutz, Flip, Salchow, Toe Loop, and Axel.

Over the years, ice skating routines have become more challenging so we regularly enjoy seeing professional ice skaters landing magnificent quadruple Axel jumps.

5. Water Polo

water polo worlds hardest sports

You may be surprised to see water polo on our list of the top 10 hardest sports in the world, but the sport definitely deserves a spot here.

While water polo is many times overlooked when it comes to discussions about the hardest sports in the world, water polo is a tough sport to master as it is played in the water.

There is a lot of grabbing and kicking going on under the surface of water, so the sport ranks highly when it comes to physicality, strength, and agility.

This is definitely a strenuous sport as it requires both anaerobic and aerobic capacity required for sprints through the water and endurance.

Water polo is also one of the hardest sports in the world ranked according to other criteria set by sports medicine experts.

Professional athletes who compete in water polo events require a lot of strength not only to move through the water but to remain away from the floor since they should not touch the swimming pool’s floor.

Essentially, water polo is more challenging and strenuous than more people assume. According to most experts in the field of sports medicine, water polo remains the most physically strenuous sport.

When it comes to the history of water polo, the sport was modernized in the nineteenth century when team water polo competitions were introduced in Scotland and England.

Over the years, water polo became very popular in Hungary, Russia, Italy, Canada, Australia, Greece, and the United States.

6. Horseback Riding

Horse back riding worlds toughest sports

Horseback riding also appears on our list of the hardest sports in the world. Horseback riding is an amazing team sport, but teammates are beloved horses.

Professional horse riders who compete in horseback riding competitions must be able to communicate and give instructions to their horses which is not easy as they cannot simply tell them what to do and they follow.

There are also other factors that make horseback riding a difficult sport. Jockeys require specific skills, including impeccable coordination and balance, alongside other factors that make a difference between winning and losing at competitive events.

As previously mentioned, jockeys who competed in horseback riding tournaments and events must remain well-balanced, maintain adequate footing and posture, and learn how to communicate with their beloved horses using their reins and legs.

Due to all these different intricacies which are involved in horseback riding, this is one of the hardest sports in the world ranked by experts in the field of sports medicine.

It takes years to master the sport, so it is essential that beginners receive formal training and learn from experienced instructors.

When it comes to the history of horseback riding, there is some evidence that suggests that people started riding horses around 600 BC.

However, some experts believe that horseback riding has emerged sometime around 4500 BC. The sport was included in the Olympic Games in 1912 and different horseback riding events have been featured at the Summer Olympics ever since.

7. Rugby

top 10 hardest sports rugby

When discussing the top 10 hardest sports in the world ranked by experts according to strict criteria, we have to mention rugby.

Rugby is definitely a tough sport since athletes keep going through their opponents’ defense and there is a lot of kicking and struggling to get points.

Rugby is not the most popular sport in the world, but it has loyal fans in many countries across the globe. Rugby is particularly popular in New Zealand, Wales, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, and Madagascar.

When it comes to rugby and its rules, this is a sport with rather complicated rules which generally take some time to fully understand.

Those who know nothing about rugby have a hard time understanding all the different positions that require different skill sets.

Each different position requires different training. Since rugby is a contact sport, all different rules must be understood to play in a safe manner. Rugby is one of the toughest sports in terms of physicality, endurance, and agility.

Like with other contact sports, injuries are common among athletes who compete in rugby events and tournaments.

Even athletes who are in great physical condition can easily sustain serious injuries, such as concussions, strains and sprains, and even dislocated shoulders. Most skills required in rugby are heavily based on coordination and manipulation.

When it comes to the most crucial rugby coordination and manipulative skills, these are trapping, catching, throwing, and striking.

8. Ice Hockey

ice hockey hardest sports in the world

Our list of the top 10 hardest sports in the world also includes ice hockey and nobody should be surprised by this.

Imagine racing on those tiny blades for sixty minutes holding massive sticks trying to get that tiny puck into the opponent’s tiny goal.

Skating for sixty minutes straight is hard on its own and in ice hockey, athletes carry big sticks and fight each other like in other sports. Ice hockey ranks high when it comes to endurance and physicality and this is absolutely expected.

Professional ice hockey players are also very fast. They rely on their agility and strength to pass other guys and to tussle with their opponents while trying to remain on their feet on those tiny blades.

Field hockey players are not only fast but they are change direction rather abruptly and frequently while carrying sticks. Professional field hockey players know how hard it is to dribble with a stick and ball at a high speed on skates.

Those who are not involved in the sport may not find it as difficult as it is, but they can assume considering all potential injuries that professional ice hockey athletes can sustain.

Some of the most common injuries in ice hockey are concussions, muscle strains and tears, broken collarbones, and shoulder dislocations.

Ice hockey players sustain more hits than soccer players. According to most reports, hits in ice hockey are also around 17% harder than hits soccer players sustain. With this in mind, ice hockey is one of the toughest contact sports.

9. American Football

Top 10 hardest sports american football

Ninth on our list of the hardest sports in the world we have American football. American football is not only one of the toughest sports around but also one of the most popular in the United States.

In fact, football is one of the top picks of most sports enthusiasts residing in the USA. When it comes to its rank when compared to other sports on the list, American football ranks high when it comes to physicality.

At the same time, football falls behind other contact sports on the list in terms of endurance.

This does not mean that professional athletes who compete in the NFL and other major football leagues are not as fit as athletes competing in other sports, but they generally have it easy.

At the same time, American football with all different rules and positions is one of the most complex games in terms of strategically planning. In every game, there are twenty-two players on the football field, eleven playing for each team.

Both sites strategically orchestrate their moves in order to fool the opponent and score. However, every single player on the field must execute their job perfectly so that the entire move does not fail.

Aside from very complex rules, American football involves impeccable power and strength, coordination and balance, speed and aerobic endurance.

Injuries are common in the sport, especially concussions, broken ribs, kidney injuries, and different orthopedic injuries mostly to the neck, back, shoulder, ankle, foot, and knee.

10. Basketball

Basketball worlds hardest sports

Last on our list of the top 10 hardest sports in the world we have basketball. While many people do not consider basketball as challenging and tough as some other sports, basketball most certainly deserves its spot here.

As expected, basketball ranks highly when it comes to endurance. This should not come as a surprise considering that basketball players go up and down the basketball court numerous times chasing the ball and avoiding opponent players.

While basketball scores highly when it comes to endurance, the agility and speed needed make the sport way more challenging than some would assume.

When compared to other sports, basketball also ranks highly when it comes to the skill set needed. Basketball players require impeccable dribbling and shooting skills.

Basketball players also require strength as basketball involves a lot of jumping. To play simultaneously with teammates, basketball players must coordinate to work together.

This requires impeccable passing coordination. Basketball falls into the category of the hardest sports in the world since players use their whole bodies to speed up and down the court.

Explosive power bursts are also needed to complete different tasks. In addition, coordination, agility, and balance must work together alongside other crucial skills.

To master the sport, many hours of extensive training are required which adds to the overall difficulty of the sport.

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