Several years ago, a panel of experts sought to answer the controversial question of which sport is the most difficult. The experts used 10 categories to try and figure out which sport requires the most athleticism. The panel included sports scientists on the Olympic Committee, researchers who study human muscle and movement, an athlete who competed successfully at both baseball and football (Brian Jordan), and sports journalists who spend their lives documenting the rise and fall of the best athletes.
To try to objectively rank the 60 sports in contention, the panelists broke each sport down to 10 separate components, as follows:
|ENDURANCE: The ability to continue to perform a skill or action for an extended period of time. Example: cyclists or distance runners
STRENGTH: The ability to produce force (force=mass*acceleration). Example: NFL defensive linemen or weight-lifters
POWER: The ability to produce strength in the shortest possible time. Example: baseball sluggers
SPEED: The ability to move your body quickly. Example: Sprinters, speed skaters, or NFL wide receivers
AGILITY: The ability to change direction quickly. Example: Baseball shortstops or basketball players
FLEXIBILITY: The ability to stretch the joints across a large range of motion. Example: Gymnasts, divers, or figure skaters
NERVE: The ability to overcome fear and control your body’s stress response. Example: boxers and race car drivers.
DURABILITY: The ability to withstand physical punishment over an extended period. Example: Boxers or football players (especially running backs)
HAND-EYE COORDINATION: The ability to react quickly to sensory perception. Example: A baseball player reacting to a knuckleball
ANALYTIC APTITUDE: The ability to evaluate, reevaluated, and react appropriately to strategic situations. Example: Russell Wilson breaking down the defense before hiking the ball.
Using the 10 categories, the panelists gave each sport a score under each category, with a maximum of 10 points per category. Then, the points are added to a total of 100 points maximum. Note that there aren’t any sports that totaled up to 100 points, but that is the absolute maximum one sport can get.
After all was said and done, here are the results of how the panelists ranked the 60 sports according to which one takes the most athleticism to succeed. Remember, it is not which sport takes the most time to learn to play leisurely, the ranking is according to which sport takes the most athleticism to be good at.
As you can see boxing ends up being the sport which required the most athleticism. Boxing needs a great deal of endurance, strength, power, nerve (control), durability, and hand-eye coordination—it scored 7 or over in all of these categories. It also needed a fair amount of speed, agility, and analytic aptitude—scoring in the 6 range in all these categories. The only category which fell below a 6 is flexibility, which scored a 4.38. This is probably due to the fact that boxing doesn’t quite rely on the joints as much as the actual muscles itself.
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Again, here is the rank of the 60 sports according to the panel of experts, represented in text:
2. Ice Hockey
3. (American) Football
6. Martial Arts
11. Alpine Skiing
11. Water Polo
15. Steer Wrestling (Rodeo)
16. Pole Vault
17. Field Hockey
17. Speed Skating
19. Figure Skating
20. Distance Cycling
25. Freestyle Skiing
26. Team Handball
27. Sprint Cycling
29. Ski Jumping
31. Nordic Skiing
32. Auto Racing
33. High Jump (Track & Field)
34. Long/Triple Jumps (Track & Field)
36. Distance Swimming
38. Sprinting (Track & Field)
40. Calf Roping (Rodeo)
40. Distance Running (Track & Field)
42. Bull/Bareback/Bronc Riding (Rodeo)
43. Middle Distance Running (Track & Field)
45. Sprint Swimming
46. Water Skiing
47. Table Tennis
48. Weights (Track * Field)
50. Horse Racing
53. Roller Skating
So why are the sports ranked the way they are? Well here is a wonderful display of the skills required to play each sport and how much of that each skill is required:
I am actually surprised by how high and low some of these sports ranked. For instance, I thought rugby should have ranked higher. Also, I was surprised to see ice hockey ranked above football. Additionally, martial arts is a very broad term. Some martial arts are extremely demanding and require a lot of athleticism to compete whereas some other martial arts do not require as much.
So what do you think of the rankings? Do you largely agree with it or largely disagree with it? Do you agree that boxing should have been ranked first? Let us know below.
If you want to try your hands at the toughest sport on the list, go join a boxing gym and grab yourself some Everlast boxing gloves. They are great for people who are just starting out with boxing.
If you would like to watch the video version, which is about 1 minute and 15 seconds, then you can watch it below:
Last update on 2023-05-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
This list is such a joke. Rugby behind BASEBALL? hahaha. I’ve played Rugby, football, soccer, basketball, baseball, and I’ve wrestled. To me Wrestling and rugby are right up next to each other, followed by football, then soccer, the basketball… with baseball waaaaay behind
I agree with the above comment. Rugby is to be there at the top. And there are lot of other highly controversial ranks, which defies belief. Perhaps, the methodology needs to be changed. Also, the list seems biased towards American sports
Baseball requires an enormous amount of hand eye coordination as well as power. Plus I’m pretty sure this panel of scientists knows what they’re talking about considering they’ve spent their whole lives studying sports and the human body.
Great article! As a long time basketball player I can confirm the high levels of flexibility rquired to play basketball. But at the same time very high levels of power and athleticism needed. Basketball players are have one of the best jumps among athletes and vertical jurnp is one of the best indicators of power and anaerobic performance.
Tony Vlachos says
At last. An accurate article. Whenever there are polls of greatest athletes, most list Michael Jordan as number 1. Highly unlikely. Most “Top athletes” rarely list Boxers, and yet they have to be the greatest all around athletes in the sports world, or there would be many more deaths. I played many sports as a youth, but I found that preparation for a sport required the most time for boxing, which I eventually stayed in (as an amateur). I could play a game with most sports on some level or other, but could never go beyond a round of boxing unless I trained extensively.
Yeah I feel the same way after a couple of years of taking up boxing, and MMA in general. Thanks for dropping by.
Hitting a baseball hard on a line, on the ground, or in the air with speed and carry is extremely difficult. Plus, hitting a ball hard doesn’t guarantee reward. Almost always athletes speak about how having mental toughness is even greater than physical toughness or ability. There are not many sports that can challenge an athletes mental toughness like Baseball does. Think about it, in Baseball we reward players that succeed at just over 30 percent of the time.
Peter Soldos says
And what about the decathlon (Track & Field)? 🙂
written by a white guy and based on laughably subjective (and weird) metrics
Too American centric and it’s a joke. We should be talking about playing the sports in it’s normal time duration for a game. Soccer players won’t be able to play 162 games a year they’d collapse and get injured especially if they are as fat as the baseball players. So why is baseball and (softball? what a big joke) above Soccer or Rugby too? and why are there so many fat baseball players. American footballers rest a lot too and most are fat and Basketball players play a few minutes before resting. Hockey players rotate a lot too and they skate which is much easier than running on foot. None of these sports are above Soccer or Rugby. Try and play it dude.