Contact sports are sports that emphasize or require physical contact between players. Some sports, such as mixed martial arts, are scored on impacting an opponent, while others, including Rugby football, American football and Australian rules football require tackling of players. These sports are often known as full-contact, as the sport cannot be undertaken without contact. Other sports have contact, but such events are illegal under the rules of the game or are accidental and do not form part of the sport.
The contact in contact sports can also include impact via a piece of sporting equipment, such as being struck by a hockey stick or football. Non-contact sports are those where participants should have no possible means of touching, such as sprinting, swimming, darts or snooker, where players use separate lanes or take turns of play. Consideration should also be given to other sports such as Moto-cross and Bicycle Moto-cross (BMX) and cycling which all involve riding/racing in packs of riders. This often results in brushing and bumping off other riders.
Current medical terminology in the United States uses the term collision sport to refer to sports like rugby, roller derby, American football, ice hockey, and lacrosse, the term contact sport to refer to sports such as handball and basketball, and the term limited-contact sport to sports like squash, volleyball and baseball. The American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement revised in 2008 included the following definitions:
In collision sports (e.g. boxing, ice hockey, American football, lacrosse, and rodeo), athletes purposely hit or collide with each other or with inanimate objects (including the ground) with great force. In contact sports (e.g. basketball), athletes routinely make contact with each other or with inanimate objects but usually with less force than in collision sports. In limited-contact sports (e.g. softball and squash), contact with other athletes or with inanimate objects is infrequent or inadvertent.
Many sports will penalize contact with rules for certain situations or instances to help reduce the incidence of physical trauma or litigation for assault or grievous bodily harm. Many sports involve a degree of player-to-player or player-to-object contact. The term "contact sport" is used in both team sports and combat activities, medical terminology and television game shows, such as American Gladiators and Wipeout, to certain degrees. Contact between players is often classed by different grades ranging from non-contact, where there is no contact between players, to full-contact or collision sports, where the rules allow for significant physical contact.
As a result of the risk of injury, some sports require the use of protective equipment, for example American football protective equipment or the gloves and helmets needed for underwater hockey. Some sports are also played on soft ground and have padding on physical obstacles, such as goal posts.
The cost of equipment can be an obstacle to participating in many sports.
Because of issues involved with any sport that involves rapid contact, many sports governing bodies are changing their rules to decrease the incidence of serious injury. An example of this is the NFL banning concussed players from re-entering the same game in which they were injured in order to decrease further damage.
A (full) contact sport is any sport for which significant physical impact force on players, either deliberate or incidental, is allowed or within the rules of the game.
Examples of full-contact sports include American football, Canadian football, rugby union, rugby league, rugby sevens, ice hockey, Australian rules football, lacrosse, hurling, arena football, Futsal, underwater football, water polo, slamball, roller derby, kabaddi, quidditch, shinty and wheelchair rugby.
A semi-contact sport is typically a combat sport involving striking and containing physical contact between the combatants simulating full-power techniques. The techniques are restricted to limited power, and rendering the opponent unconscious is forbidden.
Some semi-contact sports use a point system to determine the winner and use extensive protective gear to protect the athletes from injury. Examples of semi-contact sports include karate, kickboxing, kalaripayattu, various Korean martial arts that incorporate contact rules sparring, kendo and taekwondo.
Another indicator of a semi-contact martial arts competition system is that after a point is rewarded the adversaries will be separated and resume the match from safe distance, but often it is possible to argue if some martial arts sports belong in one contact group or another.
Limited-contact sports are sports for which the rules are specifically designed to prevent contact between players either intentionally or unintentionally. Contact can still happen, but penalties are often used to disallow substantial contact between players. For instance, "Basketball, by rule, is a non-contact sport." If you've watched a game, you know there's plenty of contact in basketball, but it is all illegal, refs allow it until it affects the game. There is no way to legally bump or knock a player down in basketball, as opposed to full-contact sports like rugby where it is perfectly legal to knock a player off the ball, or even to the ground in several ways. These penalties, including physically removing players from the field of play, mean that contact is moderate or rare.
Examples of limited-contact sports include basketball, baseball, softball, handball, Gaelic football, field hockey, ultimate, flag football, tag rugby, dodgeball, women's lacrosse, netball, volleyball, squash, bandy, floorball, underwater hockey, Paintball, polo, korfball, walking football, Jianzi, cycle polo and goalball.
Non-contact sports are sports where participants compete alternately in lanes or are physically separated such as to make it nearly impossible for them to make contact during the course of a game without committing an out-of-bounds offense or, more likely, disqualification. Examples of non-contact sports include cricket, tennis, badminton, golf, bowling, bowls, croquet, pool, snooker, bossaball, darts, curling, tug of war, bodybuilding, swimming, diving, gymnastics, sprinting, running, track and field, bicycle race, rowing, freestyle football, footgolf, fistball, tchoukball and sepak takraw.