15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Sports are, when you really think about it, kind of strange. We spent thousands of years as a species trying to make life easier for ourselves — developing the ability to farm, creating technology to help us with things — so we didn’t have to spend all our time running around after things (or away from things) just to survive. Then, as soon as we had those, we decided to do all that shit but for fun. If an exhausted caveman could see you voluntarily running he’d beat the crap out you with a big-ass bone for being so stupid.

Not all sports are equal, of course. There are gentle ones that just keep your heart ticking and make you feel alive once a week, and there are ones where the whole point is feeling like you’re at least slightly dancing with death, peering over the line that separates the daring from the deceased.

But what sports are the most likely to lead to a bloody, mangled corpse? Statisticians from Oxford University looked into it a few years ago, taking various figures from deaths caused by different sports and activities to work out, for each pastime, what the odds were that you’d never make it back to the locker room.

The main conclusion it’s impossible not to reach: Don’t do sports! If you do sports you’ll fuckin’ die!

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Canoeing: You Can’t Have Your Kayak and Beat DEATH

One in every 750,000 canoeing trips ends in death. If you and nine friends kayak daily, it wouldn’t be statistically unusual to go 200 years with no casualties. The living for 200 years bit? Another matter entirely.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Rock Climbing: Dangling on the Precipice of DEATH

Only one in 320,000 rock-climbing sessions is fatal, which seems low given how many cliffs, ropes and jagged edges it involves. It might be the gentler indoorsy side of the sport distorting the stats in a safe direction.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Ping Pong: Casually Batting with DEATH

The seven table tennis-related deaths in Germany between 1997 and 2006 led researchers to a figure of one in every 250,597 ping-pong sessions leading to death, but that might only be the case when playing against Germans.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Scuba Diving: Visiting the Watery Underworld of DEATH

One in every 200,000 scuba dives ends with a corpse. More like scuba dying, right? Ha! Ha ha ha ha! No, but seriously, drowning is an awful way to die. Terrifying.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

American Football: The Touch (Down) of DEATH

One in every 182,184 football games ends in death, but when you think of how many players are at every game (shitloads), the odds of tragedy suddenly become much higher.

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Horse Riding: Jockeying with DEATH

Statistically, if you go horse riding 175,418 times, you’re likely to die. Also, the horse will be completely fucked.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Marathons: A Journey Toward Life’s Finishing Line, i.e., DEATH

One in 126,626 marathon runners won’t make it to the finish line. Some big city marathons have enormous amounts of runners — the NYC one generally has about 50,000 finishers — so it’s something organizers sadly plan for.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Tennis: A Game of Love… and DEATH

Play tennis, and there’s a one in 116,945 chance you’re kicking the bucket. Tennis players tend to wear a lot of white, which adds insult to injury if you soil yourself at the moment of passing.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Hang Gliding: Soaring Through the Clouds of DEATH

One in 116,000 hang-glider flights results in death, surprisingly low given the “leaping off cliffs wearing a kite” element. Perhaps it’s one where, like, one in eight flights ends with a mangled flesh-heap that’s just about technically alive.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Soccer: There’s No I in Team… or in DEATH

The odds of dying while playing soccer are apparently one in 103,187 — another one that individually doesn’t seem bad, but with the sheer amount of players on the pitch, becomes a lot more statistically likely.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts


Only about one in 101,083 jumps leads to death — quite surprising given that it’s fairly hard for a skydiving accident to only be slightly bad. 

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Running: Every Direction Leads to DEATH

Running has a one in 97,454 death rate, which is alarming — so many people run. It’s higher than the rate for marathons presumably because there’s no bar to entry: anyone can sneaker up and jog to their doom.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Cycling: A Relentless Cycle of Life and DEATH

One in 92,325 bike rides ends in death. Does the problem lie with cycling, or with the cars and other vehicles that sometimes kinda hit cyclists, leaving them feeling dead tyred? All joking aside, it’s an ongoing tragedy.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

Swimming: Paddling in an Endless Ocean of DEATH

Swimming has a one in 56,587 death rate, say the statisticians, but it feels like the real problem isn’t swimming so much as, you know, failing to swim.

15 Sports with the Highest Body Counts

BASE Jumping: Nah, Seems Fine

Obviously, BASE jumping is incredibly dangerous — that’s kind of the point of it. One in every 2,317 jumps ends horrifically, a fairly good argument against leaping off incredibly high structures to almost certain splattery.

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