While the majority of sports played today have been created or have finalized their development in the 19th and 20th century, it is undoubtedly true that our ancestors have started competing against each other in primitive sports as a means of pastime and entertainment in ancient times.
While it is not known which were the first sports that were developed in our most ancient civilizations, records from that time tell us that most celebrated ones were without the one several forms of running, wrestling and combat sports that involve kicking and hitting. Since animal hunting was crucial for survival, many parts of the hunting were popularized as an early sport such as throwing spears, accurate use of the bow and more.
As time went on, sporting competitions became more and more organized, with dedicated events that celebrated sporting competitors and offering spectators easier way to follow several sporting types. The best example of this revolution in organized sports happened in Ancient Greece, where first Olympic Games happened in 760 BC, marking the start of the history of the organized competitive sport. While this influential competition had only one event (footrace), the next Games expanded to cover many more sporting types such as boxing, wrestling, javelin, discus, equestrian, jumping and more. The records of sports from that time are numerous, from paintings and text records recorded in Greece, Egypt, and Rome, to the mentioning of wrestling in the Bible itself.
Sports played with a ball also have a colorful history. First mentions of the sport that resembled football go back all the way to the 3rd and 2nd century BC in China were soldiers of the Han Dynasty were recorded playing a game by kicking lightweight leather ball filled with fur. A single image in the tomb of Baqet III confirms that children played ball sport in Ancient Egypt, but no other detail of it has survived to this day. In ancient Europe, first ball sports were not played by feet, but with hands. Violent ancient Greece team-based sports Episkyros used a ball as a weapon.
After the fall of Roman Empire and the disappearance of their violent gladiator competitions, organized sport returned to Europe during Renaissance and Victorian age. The early beginnings of modern sports such as Cricket, Tennis, Golf and contact sports such as boxing started during this time, with rising trend of establishing sporting clubs and governing bodies that oversaw professional competitions. During the 19th century, many modern major sports finally started appearing, with many of them taking advantage from the newly discovered lawnmower device that for the first time enabled easy creation of outdoor playing fields. This includes football, cricket, golf, tennis, and boxing in England, and basketball, baseball and volleyball in the United States.
Full-contact sports allow competitors to physically confront their opponents and use a wide array of combat moves (which may or may not include striking, kicking, tracking, grabbing, wrestling and putting opponents in submission moves, either unarmed or using weapons) as a means of achieving victory. While in some full-contact sports the goal of each match is to physically defeat an opponent (so-called “combat sports” or “collision sports”), in other sport disciplines players strive to secure victory by gathering points and using physical contact only as a secondary means of ensuring a victory (so-called “contact sports”).
The amount of force that can be experienced by players is usually much higher than in other types of sport, ranging from occasional contact between players during soccer matches, and the tremendous impact that can happen in American football, rugby or various martial art sports. Competitors in full-contact sports often come in contact with inanimate objects (ball), opponents who are wearing protective gear, or can regularly strike the ground itself with high force.
Most popular full-contact sport today are soccer, American football, ice hockey, boxing and mix martial arts.
In semi-contact sports, which are usually martial art combat sports, players are allowed to use moves and tactics that lead to the much weaker application of force that can be achieved in full-contact sports. More precisely, competitors in combat matches are allowed to use only moves that will lead to the acquisition of points that will be awarded by the judges overseeing the match. Hurting opponents to the state of loss of consciousness is not allowed, as well as various grappling, wrestling, tackling and submission moves that may lead to injury.
Semi-contact sports matches are usually focused on gaining points using striking or kicking, and physically containing opponents using moves that only simulate full-power techniques. Some combat sports also allow the use protective gear or clothing that can range from hand wraps and mouthguards to the protective equipment for the head, shins, arms, groin, and trunks.
Many of the combat sports of this type performed their matches not in the timed round manner, but until a point gets awarded to a player. At that point, both players reset to a predetermined safe position and are given a sign from the judge to continue fighting.
In limited-contact sports, competitors are never facing each other in direct combat sports confrontation, but are striving to achieve the goal of the game with the rules that specifically discourage physical contact, no matter if it is intentional or unintentional. If the substantially hard contact does happen, the offender usually gets an official reprimand that will either impact his or his team current score, or it eventually leads him to physical disqualification and temporary or permanent removal from active play.
Limited-contact sports can be physically exerting (like basketball), but rules allow players to remain safe even if the contact does occur. Hash penalties ensure that amount of force that is experienced in physical contact remains relatively low, but of course, injuries can occur.
While basketball and baseball today remain as the most popular limited-contact sports, others have also managed to find their significant audiences, such as softball, netball, hurling, polo, and others.
In non-contact sports, players are not only prohibited by rules to make direct contact with their opponents or team members, they are usually also either physically separated one from another with playing field bounds or are tasked to compete sequentially one after another in a predetermined sporting activity or task. In the vast majority of non-contact sports players never come in contact one with another, but rules are still laid in place to severely punish if any contact happened accidentally or intentionally (usually with a disqualification).
The vast majority of non-contact sports are played by individual players, but in rare cases, team play is present. This is most notable in the sport such as a volleyball, in which two teams of six players compete against one another while not being permitted to achieve contact across the boundary of their playspace. Contact between teammates is permitted in volleyball, tennis, and rowing, but such team sports are rare in non-contact space. Most often, non-contact sports are focused on an individual skill, endurance, athleticism or tactics.
Most popular non-contact sports today are volleyball, golf, cricket, tennis, badminton, bowling, darts, running, swimming, sprinting, gymnastics, rowing, weightlifting, and bodybuilding.
Originally created in ancient times as a form of public entertainment, full-contact sports managed to morph into the popular pastime and organized competition for millions of people around the world. Initially being fully focused on encouraging physical contact between participating players, full-contact sports over time separated into several distinct categories that covered various grades of contact between players. They ranged between full-contact which is needed for sports in which opponents grab and tackle each other as a primary means of winning a match, to the sports where contact can happen but it not instrumental in achieving the state of victory.
Additionally, some sports emerged where contact between players is possible but is not encouraged. The last and the safest category is, of course, non-contact sport in which players are tasked to outperform their opponents using only their own skill and tactics, without ever physically coming in contact with them.
As contact sports became more and more popular all around the world, numerous entertainment events or competitions also started being described as a “contact sport” moniker. This even includes television shows that promote physical abilities of participants, such as American Gladiators, Wipeout, and many others.