In today’s world, sports fans are glued to the television or sitting in the crowd cheering on their respective teams. More often than not, these games might be exciting, but they’re not often dangerous. Just like modern day, people in history loved to compete in feats of physical prowess. We know that the Ancient Greeks were masters of our most prestigious competitions today: the Olympics.
However, we now have many safety precautions in place for these valued players and athletes. Historic sports did not abide by the rules we have today. The worst thing that could likely happen today is a sprain or broken bone. But in ancient times, sports were often games that were teetering between the realms of life and death.
Here at History Collection, we’re going over some of the most dangerous sports throughout history.
30. The Mayan Ball Game, Ulama
Anyone who grew up watching the movie El Dorado might recognize the Mayan ball game. This is similar to basketball, because players split up into two teams, with the object of getting a ball through the opponent’s hoop across a large paved court. The major difference with the Mayan ball game was that this was far more challenging, since players could only use their hips. They used some of the first rubber balls in recorded history. In modern recreations of the game, we see how players have to jump and dive, using a lot of strength and dexterity to make sure the ball can bounce off of their hips and aim perfectly to get it through the hoop.
This game is also often associated with human sacrifice. During a certain era of the Mayan civilization, the captain of the losing team would be sacrificed to appease the gods. Artwork shows the severed heads of the losing players. Because of this, some speculated that their skull may have been used as a ball, but it’s not proven. Back then, women and children played the game just for fun. The sport is still played in Central America, obviously without the human sacrifice. Some people call it Pok-ta-Pok or Ulama.