toughest sports

5 of the Toughest Sports on the Planet

toughest sportsWhile soccer, football, basketball, and even baseball get the most viewership, are they really the toughest sports? Probably not. To be considered very difficult, you’d expect athletes to have to possess high amounts of various physical characteristics, extreme mental discipline, and possibly even endure a fair amount of physical damage and/or pain. Based on these criteria, below is a list of 5 of the toughest sports on the planet.

Combat Sports

Between mixed martial arts, boxing, wrestling, and more, you could almost create an entire “toughest sports” list just from various combat sports disciplines alone. Combat sports are so difficult as they require high levels of strength, explosive power, cardio, anaerobic endurance, and more. You have to stay mentally sharp so as to not leave yourself open to an opponent’s attack, and maintain discipline such that you don’t work too hard, too fast and burn yourself out.

While some martial arts are passive in nature, most combat sports require pretty high levels of aggression to win. This is because if nothing else, you’re looking to physically inflict your will directly upon an unwilling opponent. Plus, you’re actually getting punched, kicked, having submissions put on you, and so on. It’s tough because to win, you simply have to hurt the other person before they hurt you first.


Lacrosse is not only one of the oldest sports around, but also one of the toughest. Imagine all the running and constant movement that takes place on the soccer pitch, but now radically decrease the size of the field. This means not being able to ease off on the running and walk/jog across the field. On the contrary, lacrosse is almost consistent hard runs and/or sprinting.

Then consider you’re doing all this running while wearing pads (which add extra weight) and hitting/slamming into your opponents like you would on the football field. This alone can leave you battered and sore at the end of even just a routine practice.

Lacrosse players also have to have stellar hand-to-eye coordination and reflexes. Lacrosse balls are small and not always easily seen. You have to be ready to pass, catch a pass, or shoot on goal at a moment’s notice and the lacrosse ball is not only easy to miss, but can be hard to manipulate.

Water Polo

While almost nobody would think of water polo as one of the toughest sports, it most definitely is. Think of all the movement just discussed that takes place in lacrosse, then picture doing something similar while under water. This adds a whole new level of difficulty as water provides resistance in every single direction and all but prevents you from moving quickly.

In order to be good at water polo, you have to be able to move quickly through water without relying on great technique (like a swimmer), be fighting against almost constant resistance across your entire body, and have such good cardio that you’re able to do it while holding your breath at a moment’s notice, as you never know when you might end up under water.


This is one that probably needs very little explanation. A mix of aggression, lateral movement, straight line speed, supreme work capacity, explosive power, physical damage and more, rugby is far and away one of the toughest sports in the world. If you were going to summarize it succinctly for the uninitiated, you could just say it’s “football without the pads”. That alone should tell you what you need to know.

Ice Hockey

You might think ice hockey would make a list of the toughest sports based on the copious fighting alone. However, take just the sheer physicality of the sport into account. It’s pretty much non-stop bouts of sprinting up and down the ice for 30-45 seconds at a time, constantly rotating in and out for an entire period.

Hockey players have to have the balance and coordination to be experts on the ice, and keeping up with the puck takes some of the best reflexes in all of sports. Movement is fast paced, happens in all directions, and you need to be able to recover for your next stint of hard work in just a few seconds.

Then there’s simply just the physical damage. Constantly slamming into walls, being slammed into, physically maneuvering your opponents out of the way for puck control, and more. Maximum strength isn’t really needed in hockey, but players have to be inordinately strong simply because their bodies have to be durable enough to sustain that much of a beating for months on end.

The toughest sports aren’t always the most popular sports, but don’t let that reduce your appreciation for them. Water polo and lacrosse might not be played as much as baseball or basketball, but they’re definitely more difficult. Add in old standbys like rugby, hockey, and the various combat sports, and you have a list of activities that only the most tenacious and resilient of individuals can participate in.

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