Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (2023)

EE Edit@rs · · 10 Comments

Several years ago, a panel of experts sought to answer the controversial question of which sport is the most difficult. The experts used 10 categories to try and figure out which sport requires the most athleticism. The panel included sports scientists on the Olympic Committee, researchers who study human muscle and movement, an athlete who competed successfully at both baseball and football (Brian Jordan), and sports journalists who spend their lives documenting the rise and fall of the best athletes.

To try to objectively rank the 60 sports in contention, the panelists broke each sport down to 10 separate components, as follows:

ENDURANCE: The ability to continue to perform a skill or action for an extended period of time. Example: cyclists or distance runners

STRENGTH: The ability to produce force (force=mass*acceleration). Example: NFL defensive linemen or weight-lifters

POWER: The ability to produce strength in the shortest possible time. Example: baseball sluggers

SPEED: The ability to move your body quickly. Example: Sprinters, speed skaters, or NFL wide receivers

AGILITY: The ability to change direction quickly. Example: Baseball shortstops or basketball players

FLEXIBILITY: The ability to stretch the joints across a large range of motion. Example: Gymnasts, divers, or figure skaters

NERVE: The ability to overcome fear and control your body’s stress response. Example: boxers and race car drivers.

DURABILITY: The ability to withstand physical punishment over an extended period. Example: Boxers or football players (especially running backs)

HAND-EYE COORDINATION: The ability to react quickly to sensory perception. Example: A baseball player reacting to a knuckleball

ANALYTIC APTITUDE: The ability to evaluate, reevaluated, and react appropriately to strategic situations. Example: Russell Wilson breaking down the defense before hiking the ball.

Using the 10 categories, the panelists gave each sport a score under each category, with a maximum of 10 points per category. Then, the points are added to a total of 100 points maximum. Note that there aren’t any sports that totaled up to 100 points, but that is the absolute maximum one sport can get.
After all was said and done, here are the results of how the panelists ranked the 60 sports according to which one takes the most athleticism to succeed. Remember, it is not which sport takes the most time to learn to play leisurely, the ranking is according to which sport takes the most athleticism to be good at.

As you can see boxing ends up being the sport which required the most athleticism. Boxing needs a great dealof endurance, strength, power, nerve (control), durability, and hand-eye coordination—it scored 7 or over in all of these categories. It also needed a fair amount of speed, agility, and analytic aptitude—scoring in the 6 range in all these categories. The only category which fell below a 6 is flexibility, which scored a 4.38. This is probably due to the fact that boxing doesn’t quite rely on the joints as much as the actual muscles itself.

Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (3)

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Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (4)

Again, here is the rank of the 60 sports according to the panel of experts, represented in text:

1. Boxing

2. Ice Hockey

(Video) Comparison: Sports Ranked by Difficulty

3. (American) Football

4. Basketball

5. Wrestling

6. Martial Arts

7. Tennis

8. Gymnastics

9. Baseball/Softball

10. Soccer

11. Alpine Skiing

11. Water Polo

13. Rugby

14. Lacrosse

15. Steer Wrestling (Rodeo)

16. Pole Vault

17. Field Hockey

17. Speed Skating

19. Figure Skating

20. Distance Cycling

20. Volleyball

22. Racquetball/Squash

23. Surfing

24. Fencing

25. Freestyle Skiing

26. Team Handball

27. Sprint Cycling

28. Bobsledding/Luge

29. Ski Jumping

30. Badminton

31. Nordic Skiing

32. Auto Racing

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33. High Jump (Track & Field)

34. Long/Triple Jumps (Track & Field)

35. Diving

36. Distance Swimming

37. Skateboarding

38. Sprinting (Track & Field)

39. Rowing

40. Calf Roping (Rodeo)

40. Distance Running (Track & Field)

42. Bull/Bareback/Bronc Riding (Rodeo)

43. Middle Distance Running (Track & Field)

44. Weight-Lifting

45. Sprint Swimming

46. Water Skiing

47. Table Tennis

48. Weights (Track * Field)

49. Canoe/Kayaking

50. Horse Racing

51. Golf

52. Cheerleading

53. Roller Skating

54. Equestrian

55. Archery

56. Curling

57. Bowling

58. Shooting

59. Billiards

60. Fishing

So why are the sports ranked the way they are? Well here is a wonderful display of the skills required to play each sport and how much of that each skill is required:

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I am actually surprised by how high and low some of these sports ranked. For instance, I thought rugby should have ranked higher. Also, I was surprised to see ice hockey ranked above football. Additionally, martial arts is a very broad term. Some martial arts are extremely demanding and require a lot of athleticism to compete whereas some other martial arts do not require as much.

So what do you think of the rankings? Do you largely agree with it or largely disagree with it? Do you agree that boxing should have been ranked first? Let us know below.

If you want to try your hands at the toughest sport on the list, go join a boxing gym and grab yourself some Everlast boxing gloves. They are great for people who are just starting out with boxing.

Video Version

If you would like to watch the video version, which is about 1 minute and 15 seconds, then you can watch it below:

Last update on 2023-03-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Reader Interactions


  1. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (6)Pat says

    This list is such a joke. Rugby behind BASEBALL? hahaha. I’ve played Rugby, football, soccer, basketball, baseball, and I’ve wrestled. To me Wrestling and rugby are right up next to each other, followed by football, then soccer, the basketball… with baseball waaaaay behind


  2. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (7)Umair says

    I agree with the above comment. Rugby is to be there at the top. And there are lot of other highly controversial ranks, which defies belief. Perhaps, the methodology needs to be changed. Also, the list seems biased towards American sports


  3. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (8)Nah says

    Baseball requires an enormous amount of hand eye coordination as well as power. Plus I’m pretty sure this panel of scientists knows what they’re talking about considering they’ve spent their whole lives studying sports and the human body.


  4. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (9)vert says

    Great article! As a long time basketball player I can confirm the high levels of flexibility rquired to play basketball. But at the same time very high levels of power and athleticism needed. Basketball players are have one of the best jumps among athletes and vertical jurnp is one of the best indicators of power and anaerobic performance.


  5. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (10)Tony Vlachos says

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    At last. An accurate article. Whenever there are polls of greatest athletes, most list Michael Jordan as number 1. Highly unlikely. Most “Top athletes” rarely list Boxers, and yet they have to be the greatest all around athletes in the sports world, or there would be many more deaths. I played many sports as a youth, but I found that preparation for a sport required the most time for boxing, which I eventually stayed in (as an amateur). I could play a game with most sports on some level or other, but could never go beyond a round of boxing unless I trained extensively.


    • Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (11)Tri says

      Yeah I feel the same way after a couple of years of taking up boxing, and MMA in general. Thanks for dropping by.


  6. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (12)Kevin says

    Hitting a baseball hard on a line, on the ground, or in the air with speed and carry is extremely difficult. Plus, hitting a ball hard doesn’t guarantee reward. Almost always athletes speak about how having mental toughness is even greater than physical toughness or ability. There are not many sports that can challenge an athletes mental toughness like Baseball does. Think about it, in Baseball we reward players that succeed at just over 30 percent of the time.


  7. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (13)Peter Soldos says

    And what about the decathlon (Track & Field)? 🙂


  8. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (14)Todd says

    written by a white guy and based on laughably subjective (and weird) metrics


  9. Top 60 Sports ranked by difficulty in 2022: Research-Backed (15)czar says

    Too American centric and it’s a joke. We should be talking about playing the sports in it’s normal time duration for a game. Soccer players won’t be able to play 162 games a year they’d collapse and get injured especially if they are as fat as the baseball players. So why is baseball and (softball? what a big joke) above Soccer or Rugby too? and why are there so many fat baseball players. American footballers rest a lot too and most are fat and Basketball players play a few minutes before resting. Hockey players rotate a lot too and they skate which is much easier than running on foot. None of these sports are above Soccer or Rugby. Try and play it dude.


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What are the ranking sports based on difficulty? ›

According to Sports Virsa, the top 10 hardest sports in the world to play in 2022 are as follows: Boxing (hardest), American football, mixed martial arts, ice hockey, gymnastics, basketball, soccer, wrestling, rugby, and water polo.

What is the most rigorous sport? ›

According to several studies about “science of muscles and movement” experts label boxing as the most demanding sport for an athlete. Boxing requires strength, power, endurance, and the ability to withstand huge hits over a period of time.

Which sports take the most skill? ›

What Are The Most Skilful Sports?
  • Ice Hockey.
  • Mixed Martial Arts. ...
  • Tennis. ...
  • Gymnastics. ...
  • Hurling. ...
  • Soccer. ...
  • Water Polo. Doing many things at once can require vast amounts of skill and that's exactly what the Olympic sport of water polo requires. ...
  • Rugby. In at number 10 is the gentleman's game of rugby. ...

Which sport has the fittest athletes? ›

Water Polo is your Fittest Sport
RankingSportOverall Fitness Rating (%)
1Water Polo80.3
2Rugby 7s79.6
3American Football79.3
4Ultimate (Frisbee)79.3
50 more rows

What is the most mentally demanding sport? ›


It may be surprising to most people that swimming is number 1 in the list of the most mentally challenging sports in the world. Many professional swimmers fall into a 7-day self-sabotage cycle. This is a period where they may doubt themselves and grow continuous stress on themselves.

What sport takes the least amount of skill? ›

10 Sports Without Much Skill
  • Weightlifting is about bending your body and lifting a heavyweight up. ...
  • Rowing involves sitting in one spot and pushing and pulling faster than other rowing teams or individuals around you. ...
  • Fishing involves sitting or standing with a rod in your hand and having patience.
Feb 21, 2021

Which sport uses the most strength or power? ›

It's fairly obvious which sport will use the most strength and power; lifting. If you're training every day by lifting weights, it makes sense that the core areas you develop will be perfect for competitive lifting.

What is the hardest skill in all sports? ›

300 average and you'll be one of the best hitters in the game. And for this very reason alone, Popular Science says that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. First of all, the average speed of a fastball is 90 mph.

What is the easiest sport ever? ›

The 7 Easiest Sports to Play
  • Volleyball.
  • Table Tennis/Ping Pong.
  • Running.
  • Spikeball.
  • Badminton.
  • Cycling.
  • Bowling.

What is the most loved sport? ›

Soccer, also known as association football, is by far the most popular sport in the world, despite the fact that it may not be obvious in the United States. Soccer is the most popular sport in practically all of Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and Asia.

Which sport requires most athleticism? ›

#1 Basketball

Unlike most sports, basketball requires an immense amount of athleticism due to its fast pace and constant running up and down the court. The game relies heavily on speed and agility and if you aren't in tip-top shape as a basketball player, you typically get left behind by the competition.

What sport takes the most muscle? ›

Weightlifting and gymnastics were the two highest rated sports for strength and power. That makes sense. The strength sports ranking list by the expert panel from ESPN provides an alternative list.

What sports have the smartest athletes? ›

The researcher, William Daley, says bowlers averaged 129 on a series of standard I.Q. tests. Some other average scores included 109 for tennis players, 105 for basketball players, 103 for football players, 101 for baseball players and 97 for golfers. Daley himself expressed a little shock at the findings.

What are the top 3 most physically demanding sports? ›

The Top-Ten's Most Demanding Sports
  • Motocross.
  • Swimming.
  • Rugby.
  • Soccer / Football.
  • Skateboarding.
  • Skiing.
  • Weightlifting.
  • Wakeboarding.

What is the most explosive sport? ›

To put it simply, SPEED is the ultimate weapon in athletics. I'm sure if you were to ask any athlete what ability they would most like to possess, it would be speed!

Which sport is the easiest? ›

The 7 Easiest Sports to Play
  • Volleyball.
  • Table Tennis/Ping Pong.
  • Running.
  • Spikeball.
  • Badminton.
  • Cycling.
  • Bowling.

What sport do girls find the hottest? ›

The results revealed that 57% of women found climbing attractive, making it the sexiest sport from a female perspective. In second place was extreme sports (56%), followed by football (52%), and hiking (51%).

What sport has the most injuries for girls? ›

If you think cheerleading only involves cute pom-poms and piggy tails, well, think again. Because according to studies, it is by far the most dangerous sport for female athletes, accounting for a number of serious injuries and even fatalities.

What is the hottest female sport? ›

But these are just meaningless words of course, let's get to the show.
  • 8 8. Cheerleading.
  • 7 7. Poker.
  • 6 6. Wrestling.
  • 5 5. Gymnastics.
  • 4 4. Surfing.
  • 3 3. Tennis.
  • 2 2. Beach Volleyball.
  • 1 1. Track and Field.
Apr 5, 2015


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