The sports that make up the Winter Olympics are, almost without exception, nerve-wracking for the average viewer. Whether you gasped at Shaun White’s epic 1440 or the more subtle physical challenge of Martin Fourcade’s narrow biathlon victory, it’s clear that these top athletes put their bodies through the paces. Hurling one’s body down an icy chute or a snow-covered mountain comes with obvious dangers, but even a relatively benign sport like curling comes with its risks. But which sports are the most dangerous?
As the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, come to a close, The Guardian’s data reporter Nick Evershed gives us the answer. Evershed compiled data from the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver and the 2014 games in Sochi, both published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, to come up with a ranking that ranks the sports in order from most to least dangerous, as measured by injuries per 100 athletes.
The winner, according to the statistics Evershed compiled from these papers, is snowboard slopestyle, with 37 injuries per 100 athletes. This event, which debuted in 2014, has all the perfect ingredients for a ridiculously dangerous sport: high speeds, steep slopes, and big air. It beat the next most dangerous sports — snowboard cross, freestyle aerial skiing, and skiing slopestyle — by a narrow margin. All three of those events also averaged more than 30 injuries per 100 athletes, says Evershed, noting that skiing aerials saw almost 50 injuries per 100 athletes at Sochi. These top events may come as no surprise to anyone who watches them with bated breath, wondering when the next big spill will come.
But some surprising rankings appear on the list, too. Among these is ski jumping, which was actually in the bottom third of the list — just below curling, a sport that appears to be about as safe as bowling. Luge was also towards the bottom of the list, though this year’s numbers may bump it up a notch, as the Pyeongchang luge track’s brutal Curve 9 saw its fair share of spills.
Even though the games are winding down, people who want to see death-defying feats still have a chance to get their fill of second-hand adrenaline. Freestyle skiing and bobsleigh, which is the sixth-most dangerous Olympic sport of the past decade, still have medal events happening this week and into the final days of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.