Which Is the Most Strenuous Sport: Football or Hockey?

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs

Hockey and football are two highly physical sports. Although they are both strenuous sports, fans and players will debate which is more strenuous. This is largely a matter of personal opinion, but there are certain measures that you can use to compare the strenuousness of each sport. Consider these aspects if you are thinking about taking up either sport.

Calories Burned

On a minute-for-minute basis, playing football is slightly more strenuous than hockey. While tossing around a football will burn a mere three calories per minute for a person who weighs 180 pounds, a game of touch football burns 12 calories per minute and full-contact football burns 13 calories per minute for a person of this size. Hockey comes close, however, burning 11 calories per minute for a 180-pound individual.

Time Spent Playing

Football and hockey are both 60-minute games. Football is divided into four 15-minute quarters, and hockey games consist of three 20-minute periods. Although both games use the same amount of time on the clocks, the amount of active play varies greatly. In hockey, the time stops when the play is whistled dead. This means that a hockey game consists of 60 minutes of play. But in football the clock can continue to run for long periods of time when the play is not active. A study by "The Wall Street Journal" found that out of 60 minutes in a game, an average of just 11 minutes involved the ball in active play. In this respect, hockey is a more strenuous sport.


Both hockey and football are physical, contact sports that can be strenuous on the body. But in respect to injuries, football appears to be more strenuous than hockey. According to a 2006 study by American Sports Data Inc., 9.5 athletes are injured participating in sports for every 100 participants. For tackle football players, this number is almost double at 18.8 injuries per 100 participants. In hockey, the number is also high, but not quite as high as football at 15.9 injuries per 100 participants.

Other Factors

How strenuous either sport is can depend on the position you play. In hockey, both defensemen and forwards spend a lot of their time skating and face a lot of physical contact. Goaltenders, on the other hand, spend little time skating and are rarely involved in physical contact to the degree that skaters are. Similarly, in football players such as the running back are involved in a lot of active play while kickers spend minutes or less on the field and are rarely involved in physical elements of the game.