After MMA fighter Michael Kirkham died from injuries he sustained during his debut bout June 26 in South Carolina, many have questioned the riskiness involved in such an extreme sport.
MMA is certainly dangerous. Athletes break bones, tear muscles, suffer concussions and destroy knees. And, as we saw in Kirkham's tragic case, they can die. They can literally walk into the octagon and perish.
But it's important to draw a distinction between "dangerous" and "deadly." Just because a sport is dangerous, that doesn't mean it's equally deadly.
For example, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina says the most dangerous sport in America is cheerleading. Mainly a female sport, cheerleading makes up 65% of all catastrophic injuries in girls’ high school athletics, a staggering figure considering cheerleaders comprise only 12% of the 3 million high school female athletes in the U.S.
But is cheerleading also deadly? As a matter of fact, it can be.
In the last 26 years, there have been two cheerleading deaths. Although MMA hasn't been around as long, the two cheerleading deaths equal the number of deaths caused during MMA-sanctioned events.
Meanwhile, the brutal sport of boxing has produced far more deaths over a much longer history -- as has auto racing.
So what is the deadliest sport?
To answer this question, Factual.com created a table of American athletes who died from injuries sustained during competition. With your additions and edits -- you can add an athlete and details surrounding the incident -- the goal is to help answer once and for all: What is the most deadly sport in America?