By Ross Kelly
On Sunday while participating in the J-Bay Open in South Africa, 3x world champion surfer Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark. The attack was captured on video and, thankfully, Fanning was able to escape unharmed. Surfing may be a non-contact sport, but the dangers involved arguably exceed those of any other sport. Often times it’s the risks within a sport rather than the actions of the sport itself which makes it dangerous. With that being said, here is my list of the world’s most dangerous sports:
5. Football – We all know about the health issues in football, specifically injuries related to the brain. Reports on concussions, CTE, and long-term brain damage have been some of the most-discussed things about football over the past 5-10 years. Those reports are usually focused on professional players; however, it’s at the high school level where there should be more concern. Just three NFL players have died from injuries/accidents directly related to playing football while an average of 12 high school players die each year. Three high school players died within one week during the 2014 football season. A big reason why football at the youth levels is so dangerous is because the equipment isn’t on par with the college and pro levels. Also, many youth football teams don’t have athletic trainers to help prevent injuries and recognize things such as concussions. And since approximately 98% of football players are NOT in college or the pros, that makes football one of the most dangerous sports in the world.
4. Mixed Martial Arts – While there have been numerous deaths in boxing, there is really only one threat when inside the ring – a punch. MMA has an unlimited number of ways in which you can be harmed including punches, kicks, broken bones, and my favorite, the chokehold. MMA hasn’t been regulated in the United States since 1980 but over the last 35 years there have been four fatalities in sanctioned bouts, three of which were related to brain hemorrhaging. It will be interesting to see the long-term effects of fighting in MMA and how they compare to boxing and wrestling. Because MMA is still such a young sport, there is little inference that can be drawn from the current statistics.
3. Auto racing – There have been so many injuries and deaths in all disciplines of auto racing, it’s difficult to pinpoint which one is the most dangerous. Arguably the most famous death was Dale Earnhardt’s in 2001 while the most recent may be Jules Bianchi, a Formula One driver who died last week after an accident in 2014. Racing federations have done pretty much all they can to protect their drivers including safety measures around the track, safety equipment within vehicles, and safer suits for the drivers themselves, but crashing at 200+ mph is still crashing at 200+ mph.
2. Bullfighting – I’m including Running of the Bulls within bullfighting. Despite the obvious dangers within bullfighting, the statistics show that there aren’t as many deaths as you would think. Many bullfighters are injured each year from being gored or stomped on, but virtually no one dies from the injuries thanks to advances in medicine. An article published by the BBC in 2014 said that there have been no deaths in Spain (where it is most prominent) from bullfighting since 1985. However injuries are often common, and gruesome. Juan Jose Padilla, a Spanish matador, was gored through his skill in 2011 and suffered jaw and skull fractures, facial paralysis, loss of hearing in his right ear, and loss of sight in his left eye. Somehow, he recovered in just five months and stepped back into the bullring, eyepatch and all:
1. Surfing – Sure, everything’s great when it’s just you, your board, and the waves; but when you encounter the situation that Mick Fanning did Sunday, then it makes you re-think your occupation. I just can’t imagine any scarier sight in sports than being a surfer, turning around, and seeing a shark headed your way. According to the Nat Geo Channel, there are, on average, 19 shark attacks each year in the US, including surfers and non-surfers. But it’s not just sharks that you have to worry about in the water; there are stingrays, seals, jellyfish, and other dangerous marine life. Then there is the drowning aspect you have to worry about if you get knocked unconscious and all of these combined factors make surfing the world’s most dangerous sport.