The Sports Scoop

My View on the World of Sports

A Breakdown of the Physically Toughest Sports

If you follow any kind of sport, you understand that certain qualities are desirable.  Characteristics such as speed, power, and agility are a few desirable attributes for athletes to possess.  Another trait associated with various sports is toughness.  Being tough can mean different things to different individuals, but the general idea that you need a certain level of fortitude to engage in sports is universal.


I decided to attempt to figure out what sport you have to be physically toughest to play.  Since toughness can be interpreted in so many different ways, I elected to create some criteria upon which I will base my selections.  I have come up with five ways to measure the toughness of a sport.


The first criterion is the risk for injury.  While you can get injured playing virtually any sport, the threat of being hurt playing ping pong differs greatly from playing football.  In my eyes, a sport that has a high risk for injury takes a tougher person to play.


Second is the tolerance for pain.  This factor has to be looked at in the broadness of the sport rather than the narrowness of each individual.  Some athletes can endure more than others, but sports such as marathon running and Olympic lifting innately require a high pain tolerance.


The third aspect is the nature of reckless abandon in the sport.  We have all heard the term “sacrificing your body,” and that is exactly what I am referring to.  An example would be going after a puck when you know you will be smashed into the boards, which takes plenty of courage and toughness.


Next, the length of one’s career in a sport is a good indicator of how tough it is.  Usually, the shorter the career, the more physically challenging the sport is.  Boxing is notorious for fighters retiring early in their careers because of the physical demands of the sport.


The final criterion is the average person’s willingness to participate in the sport.  I am basing this off of my assessment, but I would be willing to bet that most would agree with me when I say that I would rather try swimming than head down to Australia and get assaulted playing rugby.  The exception would be rugby players, of course.


I ranked fifteen of the more physically demanding traditional sports, one through five, based on each of these factors.  After totaling up the numbers for each sport, I was able to conclude what the physically toughest sport is.  Keep in mind two things.  I don’t consider mixed martial arts (ultimate fighting), which would be number one if included, to be a traditional sport, and mental toughness is not included in this assessment, that is a whole different story.


Wrestling, Olympic lifting, and lacrosse narrowly missed the list, but without further delay, here’s the list of the top five:


5.  Marathon running – Tolerance for pain and a lack of desire for the average person to participate were major factors here.  Remember how miserable it was running the mile in middle school gym class?  It’s only that 26.2 times.

4.  Football – Reckless abandon and risk of injury are certainly high in this sport.  Much depends on the position you play and wearing pads helps prevent some injuries, but you still have to be plenty tough out there.

3.  Hockey – I gave hockey similar scores to football, but it edges ahead for two reasons.  First, you can do much more damage with a stick and puck than a football, and second, fighting is very common and surprisingly condoned.

2.  Rugby – It was difficult to put rugby at two.  It is more of a 1b.  Rugby is as physical as any sport and participants don’t wear pads, which definitely earns them some toughness points.  Having completely no regard for your body or well being pretty much sums it up.

1.  Boxing – What really got boxing the top spot was the lack of career length.  It’s common to see boxers leave the sport in their prime because it’s just too much.  Boxing received high marks for all categories, and like these other sports, it can result in some serious long-term injuries.


May 3, 2007 Posted by | Boxing, Football, Hockey, Rugby, Sports | 30 Comments