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11 Sports That Can Actually Kill You

Picture of Luke Bradshaw
Sports Editor
Updated: 25 August 2017
Plenty of athletes and adventurers seek the ultimate rush of adrenaline despite the dangers involved. We pick out the most treacherous sports out there.

BASE jumping…

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The extreme sport of hurling yourself off buildings, cliffs and other ‘spans’ is as dangerous as it sounds. This website (despite not being updated for a year) lists BASE jumping fatalities and exceeds 6,000 deaths.

Big wave surfing…

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This is surfing on waves in excess of 20ft high, with surfers being towed in on jet skis for waves too big to do alone. Wiping out can mean being pushed 50ft under the surface and understandably, even some of the best big waves surfers have lost their lives.

Motorcycle racing…

While motorcycle riding is hazardous, the general level of safety is relatively good. Specifically, however, the Isle of Man TT is one of the most terrifying races in the world. In the history of the race, 255 riders have been killed.

Bullfighting…

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Deaths of matadors in this controversial sport have reached the hundreds and in Spain there are even particular surgeons who specifically treat wounds caused by horns.

Cave diving…

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Heading underwater in the pitch black, in caves that can often crumble and subside, without knowing where the end is located, is a recipe for trouble. Caves can also have strong currents and sediment can stir up, restricting visibility. If something goes wrong there’s no swimming to the surface.

Heli-skiing…

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Responsible for 45 deaths in 2004 alone, jumping out of a helicopter and skiing downhill already carries a number of different dangers, but primarily it allows skiers to head to routes that are usually inaccessible and therefore untested.

Highlining…

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A terrifying sport that involves walking across a tightrope from one cliff to another. Most attempting it wear an attached harness, but free solo involves doing the same completely unaided.

Freediving…

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Trying to hold your breath for as long as possible, or going as deep underwater as possible, pushes the human body to it’s absolute extreme. There is pressure on the lungs, the ears, the brain, and swimmers can easily blackout. In 2015, freediver Natalia Molchanova disappeared in the ocean attempting a dive.

Street luging…

Skateboarders discovered they could go faster downhill when lying on their board, rather standing, and street luge was born. Reaching speeds of up to 100mph, leather suits are essential to stop skin and gravel meeting. Also, there aren’t any brakes…

Cheese rolling…

Roll a wheel of cheese down a very, very steep hill in Gloucestershire and chase after it, first to the bottom wins. Sounds safe enough, but this annual event causes a huge amount of injuries, with bodies being thrown about like rag dolls.

Soloing…

All the normal dangers that go along with climbing and mountaineering – the huge drops, dangerous overhangs and unstable and unforgiving terrain – without the safety equipment ordinarily used. No harnesses, no ropes and nobody to help you.

Whitewater rafting…

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Rapid water, powerful currents, high speeds and jagged rocks. This combination makes rafts very difficult to control and require huge amounts of skill, experience and understanding. Without those things, there’s a very good chance of doing some serious damage.

Want more sporty inspiration? Here’s 11 things every adventurer should have on their bucket list!