Top 20 Hardest Sports In The World Ranked By Difficulty

Top 20 Hardest Sports In The World Ranked By Difficulty

Perhaps, the glory of overcoming difficulties prompted the creation of some of the hardest sports in the world.

Many originally viewed sports from the perspective of recreation, fitness, entertainment, and other benefits.

But their little engagement in the commonly overlooked, non-professional sporting activities has revealed a glimpse of what their favorite athletes face.

Now, that is the pain it takes to achieve success in sports.

In recognition and admiration for the expertise and brilliance of these athletes who train tirelessly to master the science of their field, many fans have been forced to wonder what the most difficult sports are.

Fortunately, this article provides insight into the hardest sports in the world, carefully considering the difficulty to play and compete in, and their toughness on the body.

Before we rank the top-20 most difficult sports in the world, we’ll first consider the criteria laid by experts to judge the degree of difficulty of every sport.

How We Ranked The Most Difficult Sports

Sports often require physical athleticism and skill, even though there are notable competitive, non-physical sports like board games and eSports.

In all but name, physical sports require more than just athleticism, but analytic aptitude, tactical awareness, anticipation, and endurance.

It wouldn’t be far from correct to conclude that the coalition of both physical and non-physical requirements of a particular sport determines its difficulty.

While physicality is the most deliberated category amongst many, experts have put together ten features that contribute to a sport’s difficulty.


Whatever sports an athlete participates in, experts, physiotherapists, and other personnel in the sports science community agree that they engage in strength training.

The reason isn’t far-fetched as strength is crucial in general sports skills like sprinting, jumping, and directional changes.

Strength is a skill that improves an athlete’s performance, aiding neuromuscular activation and body composition, and injury reduction.

A well-ratioed body composition fosters cardiovascular and muscular endurance, agility, and quickness.


Twentieth-century legendary basketball coach John “Wizard of Westwood” Wooden once said, “Flexibility is the key to stability.”

Over the years, many sportspeople have found Wooden’s take to be true, including Australian tennis player and Grand Slam winner Samantha Stosur.

Samantha attributed her success to her training methods which included flexibility.

She claims to use dynamic and static stretching exercises to foster her fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility.

Flexibility improves an athlete’s balance, movement, posture, and performance and decreases injury risk.

While your mind might be drawn to gymnastics at the mention of flexibility, diving, skating, martial arts, track and field events, surfing, swimming, and ball games also require flexibility.


Becoming a professional as a teen and remaining at the top level until your thirties or forties isn’t for every athlete. The art of such consistency is “durability.”

Simply put, durability is the physical and mental resilience to withstand pressure and other forms of stress.

Nevertheless, durability can be further expressed in an athlete’s creativity, mindfulness, grit, and ability to consistently exhibit these skills throughout their career.

Due to the contrast between the schedules of every sports body, not all sports require the same level of durability, especially in the physical sense.

However, physical durability training can provide an athlete’s body with the necessary resilience to train and perform at a high intensity for a long time without suffering from recurrent career-ending injuries.

Durability helps the bones, muscles, and joints to withstand pressure and physical impact. 


Accuracy plus speed equals success is a real-life equation crucial to logical intelligence.

While an athlete might be technically gifted or nimble-footed, it’ll be easy for opponents to anticipate his moves and counter them effectively.

Furthermore, activities are timed, and the fastest team or individual to complete a task or reach a goal is favored for victory.

Most sports, albeit track-and-field sprinting, involve quick movements in short successions.

In ball games, speed improves an athlete’s flexibility, aiding footwork and handling skills.

In martial arts and combat sports, speed is crucial to a player’s ability to throw and dodge punches, kicks, and grips.


At first glance, your brain might give the same meaning to power and strength. While both categories are related, power is the application of strength.

By way of explanation, power is the ability to generate strength as quickly as possible.

Weightlifters and ballplayers deal with objects that have weight; the power exhibited by an athlete is measured by their ability to move these objects with speed.

For combat athletes, power is measured by weighted punches and the ability to knock out an opponent.


“Strength void of agility is mere mass.”

These words describe the importance of agility in sports. We can say that speed application to one’s strength in response to stimuli produces agility. 

Agility is a melange of speed, strength, and reflexes. It involves rapid directional changes in response to stimuli, which could be in the form of sporting objects like balls or an opponent’s attack.

In track-and-field sprinting, agility is measured by an athlete’s ability to make directional and positional body changes quickly and effectively while under control.

Analytical Aptitude

The physical components of every sport are derived from the tactical knowledge of its gameplay. As such, the mental components of a sport are just as crucial to success as the physical.

Analytical aptitude is often swept under the carpet in sports in favor of agility, speed, endurance, and other easily measured components.

Why? Analytical aptitude is a mental component, arguably the most challenging skill to measure and track.

However, decision making, evaluation, ability to read the game, tactical awareness, and anticipation show an athlete’s ability to comprehend and execute tactical instruction, apply logic, react appropriately to strategic situations, and find effective playing patterns.


Sports are lucrative, entertaining, improves health, develop stronger relationships, and have many other benefits, but their notable downsides cannot be totally erased.

There have been reports of unhealthy rivalry, mental exhaustion, severe injuries, and even death.

It might be difficult to overlook these downsides, but the mentality required to succeed despite these issues is the “nerve.”

Not all sports require the same amount of nerve, as some sports are potentially more dangerous than others.

However, every sport requires courage ranging from overcoming nervousness, the fear of pain, trying new methods and skills, and displaying courage physically, morally, and socially.

Dive Deeper:
Most Extreme Sports In The World

Nerve gives an athlete or team the competitive edge to emerge victorious since brave players maintain a positive attitude, take responsibility for their actions and try new techniques.

Brave players can reach their potential by exhibiting their skills, knowing their limitations, working on their weaknesses, and displaying sportsmanship.

They act on behalf of a larger purpose.

Hand-Eye Coordination

The hand and eye are two different parts of the body that must coordinate to perform several skills in sports.

Your eyes must be an excellent judge, while your hands must execute judgment to perfection if you want to succeed in many sports, especially hitting-and-catching sports.

This sensory perception is crucial to anticipating movement, reacting, and initiating action. 


There’s that tendency of a bad game regardless of a run of impressive form.

Disappointed fans, pressure to perform, busy schedule, and recurrent injuries might be depressing, but being able to withstand these pressures and remain focused is a skill all athletes must possess.

While each sport comes with different rigors and demands, endurance is key to keeping a positive attitude and performing well.

Endurance can also be expressed physically. Athletes do well to train their muscles to withstand physical activity and minimize injury cases.

With continuous drilling and exercise, muscles are trained to perform a specific task without experiencing stiffness or soreness.

Now that the factors that determine a sport’s difficulty are out of the way, here’s our ultimate ranking of the hardest sports in the world, based on the difficulty level.

Top-20 Most Difficult Sports In The World

20. Cycling (Distance)

Man Cycling on Empty Road
Most Difficult SkillEndurance
Skill RatingEndurance: 9.63
Strength: 6.38
Power: 6.25
Speed: 5.13
Agility: 3.75
Flexibility: 2.63
Nerve: 5.88
Durability: 6.88
Hand-Eye Coordination: 3.00
Analytical Aptitude: 4.88
Difficulty Rating54.375

Riding a bike down the street or to the park nearby might be more fun than work, but imagine riding 100 miles or more.

The narrative changes, doesn’t it? As such, endurance would be the most crucial skill.

An athlete’s muscles must be trained to withstand the impact of cycling such a long distance, while they must be able to maintain composure throughout the journey.

While endurance is the utmost skill to train on, strength and power are crucial to a cyclist’s success.

Strength improves cycling performance as leg, core, and glute muscles are colossally used to pedal. Power is expended as an athlete outputs energy over time to propel their bike.

With ultra-distance cycling, speed isn’t the most critical skill but would be an excellent addition to a cyclist’s profile.

James MacDonald is remembered for setting a Guinness World Record, covering 1,725 miles (2,776 km) in 5 days, 18 hours, and 3 minutes, becoming the fastest ever to do so between Land’s End and John O’Groats.

Only a brave cyclist would be willing to pedal several hours through various challenges like cycling through hills, poor road conditions, unfavorable weather, and the risk of accidents.

Some experiences are recorded in this article in The Irish Times, telling tales of hardship that cyclists face on tours. As you might see, it’s about survival for the fittest.

How long you’d last paddling bicycle tests your durability.

The 57-year-old Indian Jai Bhagwan holds the record for “Longest Distance Non-Stop Cycling,” an act that engraves his art of durability in the books of long-distance cycling.

Jai Bhagwan covered 202.1 kilometers in 10 hours, 44 minutes, and 5 seconds.

Cycling might not require much agility, hand-eye coordination, and flexibility.

However, the ability to make pre-cycling and in-cycling decisions regarding choice of bike, gear selection, brake application, and maneuverability cannot be disregarded.

By and large, long-distance cycling deserves its place as the twentieth most difficult sport in the world.

19. Figure Skating

Women's Single Figure Skating - 2020 Winter Youth Olympics
Most Difficult SkillFlexibility
Skill RatingEndurance: 6.38
Strength: 5.25
Power: 6.63
Speed: 5.13
Agility: 6.88
Flexibility: 8.25
Nerve: 4.88
Durability: 4.00
Hand-Eye Coordination: 3.13
Analytical Aptitude: 4.25
Difficulty Rating54.750

Spinning, jumping, throws, lifts, spirals, and other ice moves undoubtedly require flexibility.

The finesse displayed by figure skaters demands skillful body positioning to go to extreme lengths and reach a great range of motion in the air and on the ice.

Balance is also essential to keep skaters on the skate. You might have noticed the lean muscle mass of skaters, aiding their flexibility, but they’re pretty strong too.

Surprisingly, strength and power are important in figure skating.

Research has shown that skaters can experience landing forces ten times their body weight, implying that figure skating requires a strong core.

Skaters engage in an intense workout schedule, focusing on their glutes and hamstrings to strengthen their core.

The grace and elegance needed to wow spectators make flexibility a crucial skill for skaters, but speed and agility are almost as important.

For instance, a quadruple spin requires an average rotational speed of around 340 RPM.

Understanding the physics of human kinetics, the principle of balance, and angular momentum will help a skater make intelligent decisions regarding their movement and positioning.

18. Speed Skating

Sportswoman Speed Skating
Most Difficult SkillSpeed
Skill RatingEndurance: 7.63
Strength: 7.25
Power: 5.88
Speed: 8.88
Agility: 4.00
Flexibility: 4.25
Nerve: 4.50
Durability: 4.63
Hand-Eye Coordination: 2.88
Analytical Aptitude: 3.50
Difficulty Rating54.875

As the name implies, speed skating involves rivaling competitors via a certain distance on skates.

Professional speed skaters can reach 30 mph on short-distance tracks and go five mph more on long distances.

Power is necessary for a speed skater’s performance considering ice friction.

Speed skaters also engage in strength, agility, and flexibility training, building strong leg muscles, thighs, and hamstrings since they squat around the ice, bend, glide, push, and turn.

17. Field Hockey

Two Women Competing for a Goal in a Field Hockey Game
Most Difficult SkillEndurance
Skill RatingEndurance: 6.75
Strength: 4.50
Power: 5.38
Speed: 6.00
Agility: 5.75
Flexibility: 4.63
Nerve: 3.75
Durability: 5.00
Hand-Eye Coordination: 6.63
Analytical Aptitude: 6.50
Difficulty Rating54.875

Playing with nine others to achieve a common goal encourages the division of labor.

However, every individual must maintain a high intensity to play for their team’s success.

Endurance (aerobic endurance) is an important skill a hockey player must possess to maintain such intensity.

For at least seventy minutes, a player’s muscles require a constant oxygen supply from the heart and lungs.

Speed and agility boots explosiveness — a requisite in field hockey.

Hockey also demands cognitive intelligence, including analytical aptitude and hand-eye coordination to perform skills like skating, stickhandling, passing, and shooting.

16. Track and Field (Pole Vault)

Man Competing in a Pole Vault Action
Most Difficult SkillPower
Skill RatingEndurance: 3.38
Strength: 6.88
Power: 7.25
Speed: 6.13
Agility: 5.38
Flexibility: 7.00
Nerve: 6.63
Durability: 4.25
Hand-Eye Coordination: 5.25
Analytical Aptitude: 3.75
Difficulty Rating55.875

Immediately, jumping comes to your mind. However, combining power, speed, and flexibility is a crucial skill that propels jumping in the pole vault.

A pole vaulter must attain kinetic energy by running at about ten m/s, converting the energy into maximum height using proper vaulting techniques.

Pole vaulters train to gain a significant amount of upper body strength to launch themselves in the air and turn using their poles.

Although pole vault isn’t a throw-and-catch sport, it requires hand-eye coordination to judge the height of the bar, time their jump, and jump over the bar.

15. Rodeo (Steer Wrestling)

Rodeo - Steer Wrestling Sport in Action
Most Difficult SkillNerve, Power
Skill RatingEndurance: 4.00
Strength: 7.00
Power: 7.88
Speed: 3.88
Agility: 4.88
Flexibility: 5.00
Nerve: 7.88
Durability: 6.88
Hand-Eye Coordination: 5.13
Analytical Aptitude: 4.00
Difficulty Rating56.500

You weren’t going to miss this one; power and nerve are the most important skills a wrestler must possess.

Why? Dropping from a running horse to a steer, pulling the steer off-balance, and dropping it to the ground doesn’t sound like a walk in the park, as one must have some nerve to pull this stunt.

A November 2020 article from the National Library of Medicine reported about 2,305 injuries from 139,098 Competitor Exposures (CEs), with 62.9% of this number resulting from collisions with the ground or animal.

The bravest athletes need more than courage; they must have the power, strength, and resilience to withstand struggles from a raging bull.

14. Lacrosse

Lacrosse Players Competing for a Goal
Most Difficult SkillHand-Eye Coordination
Skill RatingEndurance: 6.63
Strength: 5.13
Power: 5.75
Speed: 7.00
Agility: 6.63
Flexibility: 4.75
Nerve: 4.38
Durability: 6.13
Hand-Eye Coordination: 7.13
Analytical Aptitude: 6.88
Difficulty Rating60.375

You might not catch, pass, carry, or shoot the ball with your hands, but you need hand-eye coordination to perform these skills with the stick you’re holding.

A lactose ball travels at quite some speed. According to an article published by Methodist University, some lacrosse shooting techniques produce shot speeds averaging 79.83 mph – 82.04 mph.

That’s why it’s crucial to process the visual input at this speed and cordially output an accurately measured force and control from your hands.

A lacrosse player will underperform if their visual and psychomotor skills are lacking.

Speed is also vital in lacrosse. On-ball defenders benefit from speed in linear movements and directional changes.

13. Rugby

Men in Action Playing Rugby
Most Difficult SkillDurability
Skill RatingEndurance: 6.75
Strength: 7.00
Power: 6.38
Speed: 5.88
Agility: 6.00
Flexibility: 4.13
Nerve: 6.50
Durability: 7.88
Hand-Eye Coordination: 4.38
Analytical Aptitude: 5.63
Difficulty Rating60.500

Perhaps, you were pretty sure to find Rugby on the list of hardest sports in the world, and this inclusion is no surprise.

However, you might have never thought durability would be the most crucial skill a rugby player must possess.

Strength, power, agility, and speed play their crucial roles, as often noticed, but durability tops the list.

The physically intense demands of rugby are exhausting, which drastically reduces the quality of a player’s performance over the years.

Skinny players might have speed and agility advantages, and excellent techniques can make up for physicality. But only players in peak physical conditions are chosen to play rugby.

However, they must be durable enough to diminish the impact of the rough and heavy tackles they suffer each game.

12. Water Polo

Water Polo Players in Action Competing for a Goal
Most Difficult SkillEndurance
Skill RatingEndurance: 7.88
Strength: 6.33
Power: 6.88
Speed: 5.38
Agility: 6.38
Flexibility: 5.00
Nerve: 4.25
Durability: 6.38
Hand-Eye Coordination: 6.25
Analytical Aptitude: 5.63
Difficulty Rating60.625

Author, sports medicine specialist, and osteopathic primary care physician Dr. Naresh C. Rao once discussed why water polo is one of the most difficult Olympic sports and what skill is most important for an athlete to possess. He told Insider:

“Water polo is strenuous because it requires both aerobic (for blood and oxygen supply) and anaerobic (for sprints) endurance.”

– Dr. Naresh C. Rao

Muscle endurance aids an athlete’s agility and control, fostered by high repetitions of specific exercises at a slow tempo with lightweight.

Power and agility are important for quick and powerful bursts of swimming, but they can only be obtained through strength training.

Upper and lower body strength are requisite in water polo — a sport played amongst two teams of seven by playing a ball in the water.

Athletes require strong arms to pass around the ball, gluteal to support the upper body, and hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles for rapid propulsion.

As expected, the durability to maintain a high intensity throughout the game is also crucial to an athlete’s success.

11. Alpine Skiing

Alpine Skiing at Winter Youth Olympics 2020
Most Difficult SkillNerve
Skill RatingEndurance: 5.13
Strength: 5.25
Power: 6.00
Speed: 7.38
Agility: 6.13
Flexibility: 5.63
Nerve: 8.38
Durability: 6.00
Hand-Eye Coordination: 5.13
Analytical Aptitude: 6.63
Difficulty Rating60.625

As you might have guessed, the most important skills in alpine skiing are speed, power, and nerve. However, nerve comes before the rest.

Skiing downhill on snow-capped hills between 60 and 70 miles per hour requires more nerve than you can imagine.

Why? Skiing at such speed has a significant risk of injury, especially to your ligaments — the pads of elastic tissues that act as shock absorbers for your joints.

According to The New York Times, 1,083 injuries were recorded between 2006 and 2019 at the World Cup.

About 30 injury cases in training were also recorded per every 100 athletes.

Undoubtedly among the toughest sports out there, alpine skiing seems like an extreme sport for many.

However, many brave athletes who love it have mastered its balance, strength, and durability science.

10. Soccer

Soccer Players in Action
Most Difficult SkillAgility
Skill RatingEndurance: 7.75
Strength: 4.50
Power: 5.13
Speed: 7.25
Agility: 8.25
Flexibility: 4.75
Nerve: 3.63
Durability: 6.25
Hand-Eye Coordination: 6.50
Analytical Aptitude: 7.50
Difficulty Rating61.500

Footworks, turns, and transitions require rapid directional changes best within a small field space.

Little wonder the greatest ever footballers like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Maradona, and Pele are often remembered for their ability to dribble and take on players on the pitch.

Albeit agility, endurance is another skill required by every footballer to last 90 minutes or more on the pitch, running, dribbling, shooting, laying passes, tackling, intercepting, and making blocks.

The fastest players often have the transitional advantage; their ability to sprint is required to beat opposition players, escape tackles, wriggle out of opposition press, and recover the ball faster.

Soccer is one sport where the smartest persons are often recognized. Analytical aptitude is a requisite in every aspect and position of the game.

On the part of the coaches, team selection, formation, in-game management, substitution, mind-games, and tactical evaluation must be first-class.

Highly-rated players are praised for their off-the-ball movement, creativity, anticipation, and ability to read the game.

The soccer calendar runs round the year in some parts of the world. As such, players must be durable to deliver consistently for a long time.

Playing for 90 minutes once or twice every week and training for hours to win each match mentally and physically drains players.

Only a few in the sport’s history have been able to play at a high intensity at the top level for many years, and only a handful have remained until their late thirties or forties in recent years.

All factors considered, soccer deservedly sits tenth as one of the most difficult sports in the world.

9. Baseball/Softball

Close Up Baseball Batter and Catcher Watching in Action
Most Difficult SkillHand-Eye Coordination
Skill RatingEndurance: 4.63
Strength: 5.75
Power: 7.63
Speed: 6.50
Agility: 6.75
Flexibility: 4.75
Nerve: 5.13
Durability: 5.63
Hand-Eye Coordination: 9.25
Analytical Aptitude: 6.25
Difficulty Rating62.250

What more would you expect from a throwing-and-catching sport than hand-eye coordination?

From pitching to batting, hand-eye coordination is a requisite skill for every baseball player.

However, speed and agility are also important to outrun players and score runs.

The importance of power cannot be overlooked; the power and technique applied to swing a bat boosts the momentum of the ball.

Pitchers are also beneficiaries of power and strength, the more the power applied, the better the results.

Upper body strength increases the chances of pitching and batting while lower body strength fosters balance.

Physical players are often favored in baseball, but the less-physical players with excellent throwing abilities can play as centerfielders if they’re fast.

Speed will be crucial to covering the ground and picking up the slack for other outfielders.

Analytical aptitude is also essential in this position as centerfielders are responsible for play coordination, calling off corner fielders, providing backup for missed catches, and preventing collisions during a fly ball convergence.

8. Gymnastics

Female Gymnast Performing Routine on Beam
Most Difficult SkillFlexibility
Skill RatingEndurance: 5.38
Strength: 6.13
Power: 6.63
Speed: 5.00
Agility: 6.38
Flexibility: 10.00
Nerve: 7.50
Durability: 6.88
Hand-Eye Coordination: 4.50
Analytical Aptitude: 4.13
Difficulty Rating62.500

Show me a gymnast without flexibility, and he’s probably a sprinter.

Flexibility is the foremost skill a gymnast must possess to get a suitable range of motion for leaps, splits, jumps and other moves.

Flexibility determines a gymnast’s performance regarding accuracy and finesse.

While flexibility is a prerequisite, strength, power, and agility are other crucial skills for gymnastics.

Muscle mass increases the risk of tightness and muscle soreness, discouraging strength training.

However, members of the sports community have devised methods to help gymnasts remain strong but maintain a lean muscle mass.

Twentieth-century German physical trainer Joseph Pilates credited the importance of strength when he stated:

“True flexibility can be only achieved when all muscles are uniformly developed.”

– Joseph Pilates

As such, gymnasts engage in strength training while maintaining a lean muscle mass to perform at their best.

Strength in gymnastics requires force production and speed, which are crucial to victory in many competitions.

7. Tennis

People Sitting on Field Watching Pro Tennis Even
Most Difficult SkillHand-Eye Coordination 
Skill RatingEndurance: 7.25
Strength: 5.13
Power: 7.13
Speed: 6.75
Agility: 7.75
Flexibility: 5.63
Nerve: 3.00
Durability: 5.00
Hand-Eye Coordination: 8.38
Analytical Aptitude: 6.75
Difficulty Rating62.750

Tennis follows baseball as the ultimate exam to test your coordination abilities.

Tennis players are known to perform complex motor skills; according to Rafael Nadal, tennis is a mind sport.

The ability to hit the tennis ball in a precise position with an accurate force is accomplished by judging the speed of the ball and reacting accordingly.

Bear in mind that tennis players must maintain balance and control over a considerable period while making quick directional changes to keep the ball in play.

As such, speed, agility, and endurance are very important. Weak serves contribute to faults. Sadly, this phenomenon has cost many players.

We readily recall Roger Federer’s loss against Andy Murray in a Shanghai Masters semifinal in 2012, which was forced by three consecutive double faults.

Excellent serves and swings are fostered by strong biceps and triceps, upper back, chest, and shoulder muscles.

6. Martial Arts

Men MMA Fight Sports in Action
Most Difficult SkillPower
Skill RatingEndurance: 5.00
Strength: 5.88
Power: 7.75
Speed: 6.38
Agility: 6.00
Flexibility: 7.00
Nerve: 6.63
Durability: 5.88
Hand-Eye Coordination: 6.00
Analytical Aptitude: 6.88
Difficulty Rating63.375

Although he was a comedian, Don Rickles was right when he said:

“You throw your best punch; otherwise, don’t do it.”

– Don Rickles

How would a fighter throw their best punch if they don’t have power? It’ll be like a feeble punch at many challenges, resulting in a boomerang from the opposition.

Power is crucial to a fighter’s success, right from the weight of their punches to the height of their jump.

Flexibility is important too, aiding mobility, skillful moves, and efficiency. The first thing to fight off is fear, making bravery a prerequisite for martial artists.

It’s easy to write off hand-eye coordination and analytical aptitude, but the ability to react to an opponent’s attack with your hands in split seconds is an advantage offensively and defensively.

It takes intelligence to read an opponent’s moves, prey on their weakness, and use the most suitable techniques.

5. Wrestling

Men in Wrestling
Most Difficult SkillStrength
Skill RatingEndurance: 6.63
Strength: 8.38
Power: 7.13
Speed: 5.13
Agility: 6.38
Flexibility: 7.50
Nerve: 5.00
Durability: 6.75
Hand-Eye Coordination: 4.25
Analytical Aptitude: 6.38
Difficulty Rating63.500

Calling an athlete a wrestler without physical prowess can be compared to calling a vast, dry field a lake without water.

Strength and power are pivotal to wrestling. Wrestlers engage in strength training to develop balance and grip prowess.

Strength and power undoubtedly play crucial roles in wrestling, but agility and flexibility are on the other side of the equation.

Agile and flexible wrestlers have offensive and defensive advantages, edging their counterparts in their ability to dodge quickly, launch attacks faster, and perform wonderful finishing moves.

A wrestler’s strength foresters their physiological changes in bones, muscles, and connective tissues.

Strong tendons, ligaments, and muscles improve impact resistance and resilience, reducing the risk of injuries.

4. Basketball

High Angle Basketball Dunk
Most Difficult SkillAgility
Skill RatingEndurance: 7.38
Strength: 6.25
Power: 6.50
Speed: 7.25
Agility: 8.13
Flexibility: 5.63
Nerve: 4.13
Durability: 7.75
Hand-Eye Coordination: 7.50
Analytical Aptitude: 7.38
Difficulty Rating67.875

“I’ve got a technique… it’s called just go get the ball,” were Charles Barkley’s words when asked about his rebound success.

His idea of the game shows the importance of agility in basketball. Agile players get to the ball on time, dribble past players, and record more steals.

Strength plays a crucial role in agility as it boosts signal speed and quality and exchanges between the brain and muscles, fostering the production of force needed for a given movement.

Strong trapezius and deltoid muscles improve shot power; however, the right technique and motor training foster accuracy.

Dunks and layoffs are jaw-opening basketball techniques, but the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles must receive regular strength training to perfectly execute these techniques.

We can only praise Michael Jordan for saying:

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

– Michael Jordan

Intelligence is crucial to a basketball player’s success, executing skills and moves with perfect timing.

Great players show their worth by beating other players simply by outthinking them.

Nevertheless, basketball players must be durable and able to endure, move up and down the court, and be fit to perform throughout the regular season and playoffs.

3. American Football

American Football Players in Action
Most Difficult SkillStrength
Skill RatingEndurance: 5.38
Strength: 8.63
Power: 8.13
Speed: 7.13
Agility: 6.38
Flexibility: 4.38
Nerve: 7.25
Durability: 8.50
Hand-Eye Coordination: 5.50
Analytical Aptitude: 7.13
Difficulty Rating68.375

When you talk about the toughest sports in the world, that demand strength, American Football ranks amongst boxing, wrestling, martial arts, and weight-lifting.

Footballers require strength to compete at a high intensity and maintain balance.

Football requires power, strength, and agility to win tackles, drive through opponents with explosiveness, and make positive plays.

Cornerbacks might have a small frame but are regarded as the most athletic players on the pitch as their position requires acceleration, speed, and intelligence.

This is to stop offensive plays from the wide receivers (the fastest players on the opponent’s side).

In the history of great quarterbacks, none is found wanting tactically; this claim proves the notion that intelligence is as important as physicality in football.

Quarterbacks dictate the game, taking care of touches in the attacking phase, and orchestrating the game with passes. 

Even a first-time spectator can tell that the skills mentioned earlier are important for footballers, but what about durability?

Like Rugby, footballers need durability to maintain a high level of intensity over a long period. Unfortunately, it’s not often the case.

Statista reveals that the average career length of a player in the National Football League (NFL) is about 3.3 years, with only kickers and quarterbacks averaging over four years.

A player like Tom Brady comes to mind regarding durability, illustriously winning several team and individual titles throughout his 22-year career, including a Super Bowl and its MVP in his 20th season as a 42-year-old.

2. Ice Hockey

Professional Ice Hockey Action
Most Difficult SkillDurability
Skill RatingEndurance: 7.25
Strength: 7.13
Power: 7.88
Speed: 7.75
Agility: 7.63
Flexibility: 4.88
Nerve: 6.00
Durability: 8.25
Hand-Eye Coordination: 7.50
Analytical Aptitude: 7.50
Difficulty Rating71.750

Like its field counterpart, endurance is important for ice hockey players to last at least sixty minutes regardless of two breaks between.

A player must be able to display every other skill to a reasonable degree, but durability is most important.

Some skills demand power, strength, and speed, including forward and backward skating, while others demand finesse and technique based on agility and analytical aptitude.

As mentioned earlier, durability is the most important skill in ice hockey, providing an athlete’s body with the resilience required to perform at a high intensity for a long time.

1. Boxing

Muhammad Ali Famous Boxing Knockout
Most Difficult SkillNerve
Skill RatingEndurance: 8.63
Strength: 8.13
Power: 8.63
Speed: 6.38
Agility: 6.25
Flexibility: 4.38
Nerve: 8.88
Durability: 8.50
Hand-Eye Coordination: 7.00
Analytical Aptitude: 5.63
Difficulty Rating72.375

With a difficulty rating of 72.4, boxing undoubtedly tops any ranking of the hardest sports in the world.

Walking into the ring to beat another prepared fighter is as difficult as it sounds, but boxers go in with Muhammad Ali’s determination. He said:

“We can’t be brave without fear.”

– Muhammad Ali

As such, boxers feel honored to overcome their fear with the hope of claiming the prize afterward, regardless of the high risk of life-threatening injuries.

Nevertheless, the results don’t always favor the bravest or strongest. Durability, agility, speed, hand-eye coordination, and analytical aptitude are also very important.

For instance, a boxer might perform wonderfully in the first few rounds but might lack the intensity to win the bout in the last few rounds after receiving a flurry of punches.

Strong lower body muscles foster not only balance but force transfer to the hands with accurate sequencing.

Researchers believe that strong shoulder and back muscles improve the power of a boxer’s punch while the abs aid stability.

Strength generally determines the impact of a boxer’s punch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most difficult sport in the world?

According to expert ratings, boxing is the most challenging and toughest sport in the world. Boxers require courage, strength, power, speed, durability, agility, and endurance to succeed.

What is the easiest sport in the world?

According to a ranking of sixty sports by experts from the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), fishing ranks as the world’s easiest sport.

What Is the world’s most dangerous sport?

Statistics show that base jumping is the world’s most dangerous sport, with about 43 deaths in every 100,000 athletes.

Many countries don’t permit base jumping because of its risks. This dangerous sport is often practiced illegally without proper safety measures and medical personnel.

What is the most physically intense sport?

Rugby edges American football, basketball, boxing, and other combat sports as the most physically demanding sport. This contact sport requires strength, power, speed, and agility.

What is the most mentally demanding sports?

Tennis, swimming, gymnastics, golf, and baseball are often regarded as the most mentally demanding sports.

These sports require hand-eye coordination, analytical aptitude, motor skills, self-evaluation, stress tolerance, and precision, whisked with their physical demands to produce brilliance.

Final Thoughts on the World’s Toughest Sports

Sports is a sphere craftily painted by artful difficulties of various levels, posing as a polar force to an athlete’s skill, determination, physical and mental endurance, coordination, and composure.

However, the quality of physical preparation, technique, and intelligence stir athletes to victory over their counterparts with a bit of luck.

We’ve considered and ranked the toughest sports in the world and the difficulty criteria they’re judged.

We hope you develop the essential skills your favorite sport requires and become the best you can be professionally, recreationally, or otherwise.

Featured Image: IBA Boxing / Flickr

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