Caving is One of the Most Dangerous Sports in the World

This post may contain affiliate links. By purchasing products through these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you would like to learn more, please read this Disclaimer for details.

Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

If you play sports, you know all about the risks involved. But with extreme sports, the risk is turned all the way up. These sports involve people jumping out of airplanes, climbing to staggering heights, and sometimes without equipment, too. Wild caving and cave diving in particular, while not always considered extreme sports, deserve mention when we discuss some of the most dangerous sports in the world.

Any time you put bodies into motion, you create some sort of risk. Sports, especially contact sports, come with plenty risk when people start running, jumping, and inevitably falling. Almost anybody who has participated in sports for any time can attest to having suffered an injury at some point.

Still, some sports are inherently riskier than others. As you’ll see from this list, those who crave the most exhilarating experiences are sometimes even willing to risk death to continue to play their dangerous games.

Creating a definitive ranking of the most dangerous sports in the world is challenging. The often incomplete statistical data and the lack of a comprehensive database covering a sufficient time frame contributes to the challenge.

In light of these considerations, this article compiles a ranking of the world’s riskiest sports. I considered likelihood of death as the primary factor of “how risky” any particular sport is. If you happen to have some reliable statistics, please feel free to reach out with sources so I may update the list.

B.A.S.E. Jumping

There are so many risky sports to choose from. How about jumping from a cliff with a parachute, and hoping it works out fine?

Base jumping takes a great toll on its participants every year. Even at first glance, it’s evident that a person plunging over a cliff or the roof of a large structure doesn’t stand a great chance of survival.

Building, Antenna, Span, and Earth (B.A.S.E.) refers to jumping from any structure high enough to allow a parachute to open entirely before impact. You’d agree that it’s pretty straightforward.

Attracting thrill-seekers from all over the world, the sport has claimed the lives of a staggering number of people in a relatively short time, and the number continues to rise.

The BASE Fatality List (B.F.L.), an unofficial tally kept by the community since 1981, reports 362 deaths associated with BASE jumping since then.

BASE jumping is the opposite of what most people expect, where the first few years are the most dangerous. With 37 fatalities in 2016, 2016 was the worst, followed by 32 in 2018.

High Altitude Mountaineering

High altitude mountaineering, in which participants face a 1 in 10 chance of death, involves voluntarily ascending to levels where serious health issues can occur. Often, this means trying to reach the summits of the Himalayas, is the second most dangerous sport on our ranking of the 10 most hazardous activities in the world. Since the first climbing attempt in 1922, 297 people have died on Everest.

The shortage of oxygen at such high elevations is the primary cause of the dangers of climbing high mountains. No human being is suited to such a high altitude.

A human being would die from a lack of oxygen in less than two minutes if placed at an altitude of more than 8,000 meters (26,000 feet).

The elevations above which human existence is impossible are referred to in the language of mountaineers as the death zone. Add to that the occurrence of natural disasters, including avalanches, falls, crevasses, ice collapse, frostbite, and other weather-related medical emergencies.

An image shows a few high altitude mountaineers making their way u pa very large mountain.

Free Solo Rock Climbing

In contrast to when you’re wearing a parachute, free soloing doesn’t leave you with a chance of making it out of dangerous situations unscathed. Climbing thousands of feet with no equipment, knowing it’s certain death at any mistake, it’s not possible to leave out free solo climbing as one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

To begin with, rock climbing is a difficult, demanding, and even life-threatening activity. Not many individuals engage in this activity despite the availability of safety equipment, including ropes, harnesses, and helmets.

The other type of climbing is called “free soloing,” It involves no other equipment except climbing shoes and chalk.

Every misstep without ropes, harnesses or any other safety equipment can result in the climber’s immediate demise, at best. When attempting free soloing, the world’s most famous climbers put all their faith in their skills.

They do it because it requires minimal effort and a lot of focus. Think of it as a form of meditation, albeit very risky.

Wingsuit Flying

Even though few have heard of it, wingsuit flying has advanced significantly since its inception in the mid-1990s.

In the extreme sport of wingsuit flying, pilots jump from a plane or a cliff and utilize a specialized jumpsuit that gives them an extra lift to glide horizontally. As a result of the slower rate of descent, flights can be longer and farther than with standard skydiving.

This added time to their flight is why skydivers and BASE jumpers from all over the world started using it. With each new record they establish, whether for distance, flying in formation, or getting as near as they can to obstacles like mountains, rock walls, and trees, wingsuiters continue to test the boundaries of human capability.

Nonetheless, the sport can be demanding, and these daring attempts sometimes fail. 162 deaths have been reported since 2002, with the most recent two occurring in December 2018.


While it’s common knowledge that skydiving is an extreme sport, few people know of the new sub-discipline that emerged in recent years. This is swooping, also known as canopy piloting or pond swooping. Experts and participants agree that this skydiving form is far more exciting and visually impressive than the traditional variety if you count freefalling from airplanes as a regular activity.

Swooping is a type of skydiving where the skydiver flies as low to the ground as possible at a high rate of speed. After stopping just above the ground, they attempt to clear a distance, land in a specific location, or simply enjoy the adrenaline associated with traveling at speeds sometimes exceeding 100 miles per hour. Unfortunately, injuries and fatalities are common in swooping events, which are already famous worldwide.

Even within the worldwide skydiving community, swooping has stirred up much debate, with many skydivers debating whether or not it should be considered a legitimate sport.

As you can see in the video below, though newer, swooping quickly became one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

Cave Diving/Wild Caving

Caving, or exploring caverns, is risky because of the potential for becoming lost, experiencing rock falls or cave-ins, coming into contact with harmful species or bacteria, and running out of supplies like light, food, and water. While exploring caves, having the proper training, gear, and safety procedures is crucial.

Things are noticeably more dangerous when you go underwater, though. During cave diving, divers descend roughly 100 feet into sometimes uncharted depths, leaving them entirely at the mercy of whatever is beneath the surface. Safe landing for the base jumper depends on the parachute opening, whereas for the cave diver, it depends on what he finds at the bottom.

There is a higher risk of paralysis or death from a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury in these extreme sports. Worse, even hostile animals could decide to complicate matters underwater for a defenseless diver. Since the first dive of its kind in 1960, over 500 people have reportedly died.

A study published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education measured that approximately ten cave divers die yearly. While it doesn’t seem like a lot compared to some of the other causes of death in day to day life, keep in mind that there are only a few thousand trained cave divers worldwide.

Learn about some of the most dangerous underwater caves here.

An image shows a few cave divers partaking in one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

Free Diving

While the risks associated with scuba diving make it riskier than contact sports, there are specific allied disciplines that pose even greater dangers. One of them is free diving.

This activity entails delving as deeply as possible without using scuba gear or other breathing gas. While free diving is breathtaking in its purity, it is also incredibly taxing since it requires divers to venture into some of the most inhospitable environments on the planet. It’s difficult enough dealing with the increased pressure when you have the full scuba outfit. It’s something else entirely when you’re doing it with nothing but a single breath.

People frequently engage in free diving without the benefit of such safeguards. It is estimated that 100 free divers per year lose their lives. There are only approximately 5,000 active free divers worldwide.

A free diver holds a rope and weight and explores the underwater with a few friends.

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is among the world’s most simple and yet stunning sports. It’s simple in that it’s two people fighting until one is still standing. It’s stunning because of the talent and variety of maneuvers employed. In a good fight, two formidable foes demonstrate their techniques in the cage to the delight of onlookers. As with all of the most dangerous sports, a MMA fight is thrilling, if you don’t mind witnessing the brutality.

This one shouldn’t need much explanation though. When players aim to cause as much damage as possible to their opponents, it’s quickly going to become one of the most dangerous activities you can participate in. According to a survey conducted by Bleacher Report, at least one competitor loses their life in MMA per year.

It’s not just the fight but also the preparation that poses the greatest risk of severe injury or death. MMA training is one of the hardest physical challenges, because it involves learning to face a myriad of difficult, realistic situations.

Training sessions are not exempt from injuries, including muscle pulls, broken ribs, broken bones, and even skull fractures. These kinds of sports will never truly be safe when they are based entirely on inflicting damage to another person. For what it’s worth, that’s fundamentally the appeal of MMA.

An image shows two MMA fighters practicing.


Nobody can claim, with any credibility, that boxing is not one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Any time you’re introducing constant head trauma with blunt objects, you’re going to have some nasty consequences.

Most boxers sustain permanent injuries, such as impaired vision or coordination, difficulty speaking, or brain damage. Depending on how long (or tragically short) their career is, these injuries can add up quite substantially. Sometimes, retired boxers are confined to wheelchairs because of their disabilities.

Since the whole point of boxing is to hurt your opponent, it stands to reason that the sport is not risk-free. In the ring, 90% of boxers will suffer a permanent brain injury. With the right defensive gear, you can lessen the likelihood of harm.

Every year, about ten boxers lose their lives to injuries to the head or neck. The toll rises dramatically when you factor in the victims who perished due to head trauma sustained during a marathon race.

An image of Floyd Mayweather boxing in one of his more recent fights. Boxing is one of the most dangerous sports in the world due to the head trauma.

Bull Riding

In the Old West, bull riding was synonymous with ranching. Bull riding has its roots in the form of cattle/bull gymnastics performed at early fairs. The animal suffers great pain in this sport since its genitalia are bound to increase its aggressiveness.

The bull uses its strength by flinging the rider into the air, often tossing them as high as 10 feet while twisting and leaping. How the rider handles a fall, whether from the animal or the one-inch dust cushion, is a good indicator of his skill. Think about it: you may be competing in the most deadly sport on the planet.

As the rider lands, how they do will determine their fate. He’ll be fortunate if he doesn’t land flat on his face or be caught on the horns for another heavy throw. When the rider falls upright within the bull’s reach, the bull might give a terrible chase.

Bones of the face, chest, and ribs frequently shatter, as can the collarbones. If it weren’t for the other contestants, the riders would likely get gored to death in this sport.

In a nutshell, this is one of the world’s greatest and most dangerous sports because it requires its participants to be constantly on the edge of their seats and make split-second decisions based on intuition and instinct.

More Dangerous Sports

Are there other sports you’d like to see us cover here? Feel free to reach out. Considering the novelty of swooping and wingsuit flying, it’s likely that there will be more extreme sports invented in our lifetimes.

While this website is geared toward caving and cave diving primarily, we hope that seeing the tragic statistics behind some of the most dangerous sports helps you appreciate the risk involved in any of these activities. Never attempt any sort of extreme endeavor without sufficient preparation, gear, and the company of some trained professionals.

Learn about some of the most dangerous caves in the world next.

Leave a comment