Toughest jobs in sports
Catchers are expected to hit, just like every other player in a baseball lineup, but their most important tasks are on defense. They must scout opposing hitters, guide their pitchers through the game and keep opposing runners from stealing bases. And, as Texas' Mike Napoli demonstrates against Detroit's Miguel Cabrera in the playoffs last season, they're also expected to guard home plate as if their lives depend on it.
Rodeo bull rider
You want danger? Strap yourself to a 2000-pound bull and see if you can stay on -- using only one hand -- for eight seconds. That's what cowboys like Elton Cide have to do to earn a qualifying score in a rodeo bull riding competition. Oh, and the bull's performance counts for half a cowboy's score, so you don't want to be riding a patsy.
If a hard rubber object is flying at you at speeds potentially passing 100 mph, do you run? If you're an NHL goalie, you stand tall and use your cat-like reflexes to stop the puck at all costs, all with opposing players working to block your view and sometimes take you out. As Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth shows, you really have to use your head.
Receivers are often the fastest, most athletic players on the football field. As a cornerback, your job is to stop them, and you're often expected to complete your task all by yourself. Such is the life of a cornerback, who gets noticed more often when he gets burned than when he makes a nice play. As Oakland's DeMarcus Van Dyke found out against Detroit's Calvin Johnson last December, it can get lonely on the island.
Track and field decathlete
Most track and field athletes specialize in an event or two, but decathletes have to be proficient in everything, competing in 10 events, from sprints and hurdles to throws and jumps. And they finish it all off with the grueling 1,500-meter run, which results in scenes like this one from the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Swimmer in the individual medley
The individual medley (200 meters for woman, 400 meters for men) is sort of the decathlon of swimming, as swimmers use four different strokes (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle) within the same race. As Hannah Miley of Britain shows, the race requires both stamina and a breadth of skill.
The guys who wear the yellow jersey get all the acclaim, but they get a lot of help from their teammates. The domestiques often set the pace for the stars on breakaway attempts, help their leader catch opponents by letting them draft to the front, and even bring their leaders water and food. George Hincapie, right, was a domestique for Lance Armstrong.
Olympic winter sports: Skeleton
Flat on your stomach, face inches from the ice, skeleton riders like Katharine Eustace of New Zealand fly down the track at speeds that can exceed 75 mph. The skeleton has no brake, and riders steer by shifting the pressure of their shoulders, elbows and knees to control the sled. Sounds perfectly safe, no?
Mixed martial arts
If you thought boxing was tough, you haven't seen anything yet. As Martin Kampmann of Denmark, left, and Thiago Alves of Brazil show, MMA can be a bloody proposition. Gloves are smaller than boxing gloves, and competitors can also strike with their feet, knees and elbows. Want to test your stamina? Try wrestling with one of these guys for a few minutes.
Water combat might be a more apt name for this sport, as Italy's Niccolo Figari, left, and Serbia's Filip Filipovic show during the European Championships in January. Competitors battle for position and goals as they swim from one end of the pool to the next. Swimmers aren't allowed to touch the bottom of the pool, but there are all sorts of dirty tricks that do occur beneath the surface.
Quarterbacks get all the acclaim, and deservedly so. They have to know the playbook inside and out and must know where every player is on every play. They have to adjust plays on the fly according to the defense, and they have to be able to deliver the ball downfield quickly and accurately. QBs have to be tough, too, as Eli Manning of the New York Giants shows, enduring wicked hits from the opponents' 300-pounders up front.