The Hardest Sports In The World

From football and cricket to hockey and volleyball, these are just a few of the many popular sports in the world. Most of us have grown up watching these sports on television, and some have grown up playing these as well. While they definitely look fun and easy when watching on a television screen, are they really that simple?

If you look beyond these popular sports, the world of sports is full of so many others, many of which are deemed the hardest sports ever.

As entertaining as sports are for the watchful crowd and the spectators, only the athletes know how much physical strength, focus, balance, and speed most of these games require. Moreover, they also demand a great deal of endurance capability along with mental strength.

There are primarily six parameters that make a particular game or sport super challenging and hard. These include:

  •         Speed
  •         Endurance
  •         Strength
  •         Agility
  •         Skill level
  •         Physicality

The Top 10 Hardest Sports In The World

If you are a sports enthusiast and have grown up watching and playing sports, you probably have a clear idea of how difficult some of them are.

We’ve created a list of the top 10 hardest sports in the world, but note that this isn’t a fixed list. The idea of ‘difficult’ is quite subjective, and so, it might vary from person to person.

The following list of the hardest sports is based on numerous factors such as:

  •         The difficulty level of the sport
  •         The variety of different skills involved in the sport
  •         The level and amount of danger athletes face
  •         The conditions that athletes have to go experience or endure in order to emerge victorious

Take a look at what we believe are the hardest sports in the world.

1.      Boxing

Boxing looks so painful and uncomfortable, so one can only imagine how hard it must be in actuality!

It surely is one of the most difficult sports in the world, given how much stamina, vigor, physical strength, and energy it requires. From throwing powerful and accurate punches while also trying to avoid punches from the opponent to the need for extremely quick footwork and reflexes, boxing isn’t just hard but also features the risk of life-threatening injuries.

The ultimate objective or goal of boxing is to knock out the opponent in a way that makes him unable to move or stand until the referee counts to ten. Another way to declare the winner is by tallying the overall scores of the judges at the end of the fight. If all the judges have a unanimous decision of the same fighter as the winner, that person wins.

This combat sport does have rules and solely focuses on the boxers’ upper body to keep them safe; however, despite that, there have been many terrible incidents inside the boxing ring.

So, the fact that boxers have to put both their bodies and their lives on the line to compete in this sport is what makes boxing such a difficult and challenging sport.

2.      Water Polo

Is water polo the hardest sport?

If not the hardest, it surely is one of the most challenging sports in the world. Water Polo has been described as one of the hardest Olympic sports because it’s extremely physically strenuous.

It’s also quite a competitive team sport that is played in the water, as the name suggests. It consists of four quarters with two teams featuring seven members each. The main objective here is for them to score goals by throwing the ball into the opposite team’s goalpost. In the end, whichever team has the most number of goals wins the game.

What makes water polo difficult is that it requires both aerobic and anaerobic capacity for endurance and sprints, respectively.

One of the most challenging positions in water polo has to be the goalkeeper position. A goalie has so much on their plate, such as the need to jump out of the water, hold their vertical position without losing balance, using primarily their leg and core strength, and also to keep an eye on their goal to stop the other team from scoring. Similarly, the other team members also have to endure a lot, such as they have to score points for the team while also struggling to prevent themselves from drowning and touching the ground at the same time.

3.      Bull Riding

This isn’t just one of the hardest sports in the world, but it’s also quite a dangerous one.

Bull riding is certainly not for the faint-hearted because it comes with risks that literally involve staring death in the face. This sport requires the rider to climb on the back of a 2,000-pound bull, which requires a whole other level of fearlessness and courage. The risks involved here are obvious such as serious injury given how the bull literally weighs a ton, and in most cases, it has pointy horns.

It’s almost like holding on to dear life as a wild, raging bull tries its absolute best to knock you off its back stomp you into the ground.

Bull riding demands intense physical prowess, courage, and unparalleled mental toughness. The rider has to stay atop the bull for about eight seconds, and while it may seem like a very short amount of time, trying to keep your balance is extremely challenging.

4.      Rugby

Just like in American football, the goal of rugby is to move the ball into the try zone, which is basically the opposition’s end zone.

Rugby has often been described as ‘a “thug’s” game played by gentlemen’ and truth be told, it does appear to be a thug’s game. It’s a 15-a-side team sport where the goal is to advance the ball behind the opponent’s in-goal area. While it’s played both by kicking the ball as well as carrying the ball in your hand, in the latter case, you can only throw or hand it backward.

What makes rugby one of the top ten hardest sports globally is that it requires one to train their body to an extreme extent every day. Moreover, rugby has very complicated rules that require a lot of time learning and keeping them in mind.

Rugby also includes so many different positions, each of which requires specific training and different skill sets, which is why this sport isn’t for everyone.

5.      MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

Also referred to as cage fighting, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a full-contact combat sport that comprises of a combination of techniques from many other combat sports.

MMA involves two competitors who use the three tactics: striking, finishing holds, and control to achieve dominance over each other. The combatants are also allowed to utilize many other martial arts techniques such as takedowns, punches, throws, joint-locks, chokes, and kicks.

One combatant emerges victorious through the following ways:

  •         knock-out
  •         submission where one fighter gains victory over by other to the other by tapping the opponent with his hand mat or tapping the mat
  •         stoppage by the referee, competitor’s corner man, or the fight doctor

Mixed Martial Arts is believed to be as dangerous and risky as any other full-contact sport. The one factor that makes MMA one of the hardest sports is that the fighters are highly prone to numerous injuries such as concussions and sprains, among many others.

6.      Gymnastics

This is one of those all-rounder kinds of sports that promote overall balance and coordination, physical development, core strength, balance, joint flexibility, and muscular strength.

Is gymnastics the hardest sport? Not exactly, but it definitely is one of the hardest Olympic sports and demands a combination of technical, physical, and mental strength.

It is a competitive type of sport that requires large amounts of strength, flexibility, agility, body control, balance, stamina, coordination, and discipline in order to be able to master it with perfection. Moreover, it also demands explosive power, excellent hand-eye coordination, and speed, making it one of the most challenging sports out there.

The tricky aspect is that in gymnastics, there’s hardly any room for error. This is one reason why gymnasts are always found training for endless hours, and they also start at a very young age. For an average person, gymnastics can be quite complicated, which is also because, during the training process, gymnasts do end up suffering various injuries.

7.      Ice Hockey

As fun and exciting as ice hockey looks from a distance, it’s actually one of the most physically demanding and challenging sports out there.

It’s a fast contact sport played between two competing teams, each of which comprises of six skaters. The sport takes place on an ice rink which can be both indoor and outdoor.

The players on both teams wear ice skates on their feet that help skate across the ice at high speeds. They are able to push, shoot or pass a hockey puck to their team members around the ice with the help of a hockey stick. If they are able to shoot the puck into a net, they score a goal.

Ice hockey is majorly challenging because it’s played on ice which can be quite a difficult terrain to maneuver. Imagine racing around the ice in sturdy and heavy skaters while chasing a tiny hockey puck with big hockey sticks – it requires a great deal of stamina, energy, physical strength, and power. These are some reasons why ice hockey is one of the most complex sports, no matter how fun it may seem.

8.      Swimming

Swimming in a small pool at a recreational club as an evening pastime is so much different than swimming in the Olympics. While swimming is definitely one of the best sports you can take part in to boost your strength and tone your body, it’s also quite a tough sport to master.

Is swimming the hardest sport? It isn’t the hardest sport per se, but it surely is both physically and mentally demanding.

From requiring constant practice for a fit and strong body to high levels of endurance, flexibility, and durability, swimming certainly emerges as one of the toughest sports in comparison to other sports.

Swimmers also need to learn the correct swimming postures and techniques, spend hours after hours training and practicing, and learn all about water resistance and temperature especially if they participate in swimming contests and competitions.

If you were to ask, “What is the hardest individual sport,then swimming might be it, mainly because you have no one to turn to for support.

9.     Football

Football, or soccer as Americans call it, is of the most viewed sports by people all over the world. You will find football enthusiasts literally in every corner of the world, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s one of the toughest and hardest sports, too.

With popular names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lioness Messi making the sport look so easy and smooth on the television screen, it’s actually a whole other story in reality.

From being heavily focused on football and scoring goals to keeping track of the opponents to exerting a lot of energy, especially in the lower body, this sport is physically very demanding and can leave one super exhausted by the end of it.

Football might be easy to learn, but it is actually very hard to master. The concept sure does seem simple, but there are so many little details and intricacies attached to it that can make the mastering process super challenging.

Another important thing to know about football is that it also involves a bit of understanding and anticipating where players need to be at all times and what the opponents might do next. Additionally, one must also be able to swiftly make decisions while under pressure.

10. Basketball

Like ice hockey, basketball also appears to be quite a fun and exciting sport, and while it surely is all that, it’s also quite tricky and challenging.

On the surface, basketball is all about throwing a ball through a netted hoop fixed at both ends of the basketball court. But, doing that alone requires a lot of skill.

Moreover, in order for one to become proficient at this sport, they need a lot of practice and training so that by the end of it, they have all the necessary skills that this sport requires.

Among all the skills required by basketball, passing the ball seems to be the toughest because it’s something that needs to be worked on individually. This skill isn’t just about making an accurate pass. The actual hard part is doing it successfully under pressure and at the right time.

Other Tough Sports that Deserve a Mention

Other than these top 10 hardest sports, there are quite a few others that deserve a mention as well. These include:

  •         Hurling
  •         Decathlon
  •         Surfing
  •         Gaelic Football
  •         Ironman Triathlon


It’s safe to say that every sport is challenging in its own unique way and requires great skill and talent to master. The world of sports is diverse and extensive, with a plethora of incredible sports, many of which we haven’t even heard of!

The above-mentioned list of the top 10 hardest sports isn’t set in stone; one may beg to differ in terms of the ranking order of the hardest sports in the world.

However, in a nutshell, all these sports, and many others come with their own difficulties and tough spots. Some are particularly physically demanding, while others are heavily focused on mental strength and abilities.

Frequently Asked Question

What is the #1 most difficult sport?

There are many sports that are equally difficult, but according to research, the most difficult sport is boxing.

What are the top 10 hardest sports in the world?

The top 10 hardest sports in the world are:

  1.   Boxing
  2.   Water polo
  3.   Bull riding
  4.   Rugby
  5.   MMA
  6.   Gymnastics
  7.   Ice hockey
  8.   Swimming
  9.   Football
  10.   Basketball

What sport takes the most skill?

All sports take their fair share of skill, so there’s no exact measure of which one takes the most skill.

Which sport is No. 1 in the world?

According to research, football is a top 10 sport in all countries and also the biggest global sport.

What’s the easiest sport?

Running has to be one of the easiest sports, but it requires a lot of stamina, energy, and physical strength.

What is the 2nd most popular sport in the world?

Sports like cricket, baseball, and basketball are likely the top competitors for the second most popular sport in the world.

What is the least popular sport?

There are many less popular sports in the world, but the least popular is probably motorcycle racing.

What sport has the most money?

There are many, but basketball is the world’s highest-paid sport and has the most money.

Which is the biggest sport in the world?

Football is easily the biggest sport in the world on a global level.

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