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Hello, adrenaline seekers!

Ready to embrace the thrill of physical clashes?

Jump into our contact sport list, sorted by popularity.

From hardened athletes to fearless newcomers, there’s a match for everyone!

Contact Sports List

  1. Soccer (Football)
  2. Basketball
  3. American Football (Gridiron)
  4. Rugby Union
  5. Rugby League
  6. Ice Hockey
  7. Boxing
  8. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
  9. Wrestling
  10. Judo

#1 Soccer (Football)

Soccer

Soccer, known as football outside of North America, originated in England in the mid-19th century.

The modern game’s rules were established by the London Football Association in 1863. Soccer is the most popular sport globally, with an estimated 4 billion fans.

Major tournaments include the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, and the English Premier League.Soccer has been an Olympic sport since the 1900 Paris Games.

#2 Basketball

Basketball

Basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. The sport quickly gained popularity in the United States and later expanded worldwide.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the most famous professional league, featuring teams from the United States and Canada.

Basketball has been an Olympic sport since the 1936 Berlin Games and also features in events such as FIBA World Cup and EuroBasket.

#3 American Football (Gridiron)

American Football

American Football, also known as gridiron, evolved from rugby and soccer in the late 19th century in the United States. The National Football League (NFL) is the most popular professional league and holds the annual Super Bowl championship.

Although American Football is predominantly played in the United States, the sport has started to gain popularity in other countries, such as Canada and Europe. American Football has never been an Olympic sport.

#4 Rugby Union

Rugby Union

Rugby Union’s origins can be traced back to the early 19th century in England. The sport is popular worldwide, particularly in countries such as England, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Major Rugby Union tournaments include the Rugby World Cup, the Six Nations Championship, and the Rugby Championship. Rugby Union was reintroduced as an Olympic sport in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in the form of Rugby Sevens.

#5 Rugby League

Rugby League

Rugby League, another form of rugby, was established in 1895 when clubs in Northern England broke away from the Rugby Football Union to form their league.

The sport is popular in countries like England, Australia, and New Zealand. Major tournaments include the Rugby League World Cup, the Super League, and the National Rugby League (NRL). Rugby League has never been an Olympic sport.

#6 Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey’s origins can be traced back to the 19th century in Canada. The sport is most popular in countries with colder climates, such as Canada, the United States, and Russia.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is the premier professional league, featuring teams from both the United States and Canada. Ice Hockey has been an Olympic sport since the 1920 Antwerp Games.

#7 Boxing

Boxing

Boxing has a long history, with ancient evidence dating back to 3000 BCE in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Modern boxing’s origins can be attributed to 17th-century England.

The sport is popular worldwide, with professional bouts and amateur competitions taking place in various weight classes. Boxing has been an Olympic sport since the 1904 St. Louis Games.

#8 Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that combines elements of various martial arts, such as boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The sport gained popularity with the establishment of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 1993.

MMA is now popular worldwide, with Bellator and ONE Championship being other prominent organizations. MMA is not yet an Olympic sport.

#9 Wrestling

Wrestling

Wrestling is an ancient sport, with evidence dating back to 3000 BCE in Sumerian and Egyptian art.

The sport is practiced worldwide, with Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling being the two Olympic styles. Wrestling has been a part of the Olympic program since the 1896 Athens Games.

#10 Judo

Judo

Judo, a modern Japanese martial art, was founded by Jigoro Kano in 1882.

The sport gained international recognition in the mid-20th century and is now popular in various countries, such as France, Brazil, and South Korea. Judo has been an Olympic sport since the 1964 Tokyo Games.

More Contact Sports

  1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ): Developed in the early 20th century by the Gracie family in Brazil, this martial art focuses on ground fighting and submission holds. BJJ is popular worldwide, particularly among MMA practitioners. While not an Olympic sport, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) organizes the annual World Championships.
  2. Muay Thai: A martial art originating from Thailand in the 16th century, Muay Thai is known as the “art of eight limbs” due to its emphasis on strikes using fists, elbows, knees, and shins. It is most popular in Thailand but has gained global interest. Muay Thai is not an Olympic sport, but the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) hosts the World Championships.
  3. Taekwondo: A Korean martial art developed in the 1940s and 1950s, Taekwondo is known for its high, fast kicks and jumping/spinning techniques. The sport is popular worldwide and has been an Olympic sport since the 2000 Sydney Games.
  4. Karate: Originating in Okinawa, Japan, in the 17th century, Karate is a striking art that emphasizes punches, kicks, and knee strikes. The sport gained international recognition after World War II and is popular globally. Karate made its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
  5. Sumo Wrestling: A traditional Japanese wrestling sport dating back to ancient times, Sumo is characterized by its large, heavy competitors who attempt to force opponents out of the ring or touch the ground with anything other than their feet. Sumo is most popular in Japan and has not been part of the Olympic program.
  6. Handball: Handball, developed in late 19th-century Denmark and Germany, is a fast-paced team sport where players aim to throw a ball into the opposing team’s goal. It is most popular in Europe and has been an Olympic sport since the 1936 Berlin Games.
  7. Field Hockey: With origins dating back to ancient civilizations, modern field hockey developed in England in the late 19th century. The sport is popular in Europe, Asia, and Oceania and has been an Olympic sport since the 1908 London Games.
  8. Lacrosse: Lacrosse, a sport with Native American roots, developed in the 19th century in Canada. It is popular in North America and involves teams competing to score by shooting a small rubber ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled stick with a net. While not an Olympic sport, the World Lacrosse Championships are held every four years.
  9. Water Polo: Originating in England and Scotland in the late 19th century, water polo is a fast-paced aquatic sport where teams attempt to score by throwing a ball into the opponent’s goal. The sport is popular in Europe and the United States and has been an Olympic sport since the 1900 Paris Games.
  10. Australian Rules Football: Also known as Aussie Rules or AFL, this contact sport was developed in the mid-19th century in Australia. It is predominantly played in Australia, with professional league AFL being the most popular. Although not an Olympic sport, the Australian Football International Cup takes place every three years.
  11. Gaelic Football: Gaelic football, established in 19th-century Ireland, is a traditional Irish sport where teams aim to score by kicking or punching a ball into the opposing team’s goal. It is most popular in Ireland, with the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) organizing the annual All-Ireland Senior Championship. The sport has not been part of the Olympic program.
  12. Hurling: Another traditional Irish sport, hurling dates back to ancient times. It is a fast-paced game where players use a wooden stick called a hurley to hit a small ball called a sliotar between the opposing team’s goalposts. Hurling is popular in Ireland and has not been part of the Olympic program. The GAA organizes the annual All-Ireland Senior Championship.
  13. Sepak Takraw: Originating in Southeast Asia, Sepak Takraw is a sport similar to volleyball but with players using their feet, knees, chest, and head to touch the ball. It is most popular in countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The sport is not an Olympic event, but the Asian Sepaktakraw Federation organizes the biennial King’s Cup World Championship.
  14. Kabaddi: With ancient Indian origins, Kabaddi is a contact team sport where players attempt to score points by raiding the opposition’s half of the court. The game is popular in South and Southeast Asia and has been part of the Asian Games since 1990. It is not an Olympic sport. The Pro Kabaddi League is a popular professional league in India.
  15. Futsal: A variant of soccer, Futsal was developed in the 1930s in Uruguay. It is a fast-paced, indoor, five-a-side game played worldwide and is particularly popular in Brazil and Spain. While not an Olympic sport, the FIFA Futsal World Cup takes place every four years.
  16. Bandy: Similar to ice hockey, Bandy involves teams skating on ice and playing with a small ball rather than a puck. The sport originated in England in the 19th century and is popular in countries such as Sweden, Russia, and Finland. Bandy has not been part of the Olympic program, but the World Bandy Championships are held regularly.
  17. Shinty: A traditional Scottish sport with ancient Celtic roots, Shinty is similar to field hockey and is played with a curved wooden stick and a small leather ball. The sport is popular in Scotland and is governed by the Camanachd Association, which organizes the annual Scottish Shinty Cup Final.
  18. Roller Derby: Roller Derby is a contact sport developed in the United States in the 1930s. It involves teams of roller skaters competing to score points by overtaking opposing team members on an oval track. The sport is popular in the United States, Canada, and Europe, with the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) organizing the annual WFTDA Championships.
  19. Quidditch (Contact version): Quidditch is a contact sport based on the fictional game from the Harry Potter series, adapted to be played on the ground instead of flying on broomsticks. Teams compete to score points by throwing balls through hoops. The sport has gained popularity worldwide, with the International Quidditch Association (IQA) organizing the biennial Quidditch World Cup.
  20. Canoe Polo: Also known as kayak polo, Canoe Polo is a contact sport where teams compete on water to score goals by throwing a ball into the opposing team’s net. The sport is popular in Europe, Asia, and Oceania. While not an Olympic sport, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) organizes the Canoe Polo World Championships every two years.

FAQ

What are the most popular contact sports?

The most popular contact sports include soccer (football), basketball, American football (gridiron), rugby union, rugby league, ice hockey, boxing, mixed martial arts (MMA), wrestling, and judo.

How many different contact sports are there?

Our contact sports list includes 30 unique contact sports.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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