The Most Painful Moments In Game Show History

While game shows may seem like light-hearted fun at first glance, many ask their contestants to endure harrowing lengths in order to come out on top. From putting their physical well-being on the line to showcasing their intellectual capacity with quiz questions, competitive television shows can provide grueling experiences for their participants. When these challenges go wrong, they can result in particularly painful incidents, often filmed and broadcast to the general public to live on in infamy.

Here are some of the most painful game show incidents ever caught on camera, from the agonizingly humiliating to the physically torturous. These range from British reality television's penchant for brutalizing its celebrity guests on various competition shows to Japanese game shows putting contestants through especially excruciating challenges to punish unsatisfactory performances. Thankfully, all this mayhem and misery results in some truly memorable television as game show contestants are put through the proverbial wringer.

The Amazing Race botches a watermelon slingshot

"The Amazing Race" has steadily pitted teams of two in competitions around the globe for over twenty years as one of CBS' most enduring reality game shows. In addition to embarking on the arduous journey, contestants are tasked with unusual challenges to help receive bonuses and other clues. One challenge involving watermelons during the series' 17th season in 2010 explosively backfired on a contestant.

The Season 17 debut episode of "The Amazing Race" had contestants travel across England before using a slingshot to fire a watermelon at a target to receive their next clue. After several missed attempts, contestant Claire Champlin pulled back on the slingshot to fire the fruity projectile at the target, only to have it flung right back into her face at full force. While the watermelon shattered on impact, Claire was cleared by medical to continue the challenge as encouraged by her teammate Brook.

The Jump sidelines many of its wintry competitors

Even just on paper, the British competition series "The Jump" sounds like a televised disaster in the making. Celebrity contestants are trained by mentors to compete in various winter sports, including a large ski jump. This potentially perilous premise was put to the test during the show's third season, airing in 2016, featuring a stunning number of painful injuries, resulting in several contestants withdrawing prematurely throughout the season.

The withdrawals began shortly into the season, with contestant Tina Hobley leaving the show after dislocating her elbow while training for the ski jump. She was followed by Rebecca Adlington, who left the show after dislocating her shoulder while training for an air jump. BBC reports that these events were followed by incidents occurring to contestants Beth Tweddle, who suffered a spinal injury, Mark-Francis Vandelli, who broke one of his ankles, and Linford Christie, who endured a hamstring injury. Despite the injury rate, "The Jump" returned for one additional season the following year, which saw its own set of contestant injuries.

Dancing on Ice features its own winter sport mishap

While "Dancing on Ice" is also a British competition series featuring celebrity contestants and revolving around winter sports, it also has a much less hazardous premise than "The Jump." "Dancing on Ice" has contestants paired with a figure skater mentor, with the duo carrying out an elaborate figure skating routine each episode as they are steadily eliminated based on the judges' scores. Even with this relatively safer premise, there was still a particularly gruesome injury during "Dancing on Ice" Season 7 in 2012.

British actor Jennifer Ellison was paired with figure skater mentor Daniel Whiston for the season before a bloody incident occurred in the season's sixth episode. While figure skating in a routine set to Peggy Lee's "Fever," British actor Ellison accidentally kicked herself in the back of the head with her ice skate's blade. Though Ellison admirably managed to finish her routine, as she bled profusely from her scalp, the duo were eventually eliminated by the season's penultimate episode.

I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here becomes literal in Australia

There is something about British reality competition shows that seems to enjoy putting its celebrity contestants in uncomfortable positions, and this is especially true for "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here." The series' tenth season in 2010 put its cast in the untamed Australian wilderness, where the contestants underwent challenges as they endured the rigors of the jungle together. This resulted in contestants Shaun Ryder and Lembit Opik having their own harrowing experiences at the fangs of the local wildlife.

One of the season's challenges had the contestants forage through a set of boxes in search of a key, with several of the boxes containing rats and one containing a python. Both Ryder and Opik would each be bitten in the hand by the python and require immediate medical attention for their injuries. Fortunately for the Happy Mondays frontman, Ryder would eventually end his reality television stint as the season's runner-up, almost making the gnarly snake bite worth the trouble.

Total Wipeout wipes out a celebrity contestant's foot

Like its American counterpart, the British competition series "Total Wipeout" has its contestants traverse a tricky obstacle course, often resulting in them plunging into the water or mud below the course. In addition to its full seasons, "Total Wipeout" also aired special episodes with celebrity contestants and did not pull its punches as those celebrities braved the obstacle courses themselves. This was made painfully clear for comedian Dom Joly when he appeared in a 2011 celebrity special for the series.

BBC reports that while navigating through the special's obstacle course in Argentina, Joly broke several bones in his foot after crossing the big ball obstacle. The painful experience left Joly in recovery for three months though he claimed that his children were excited about their father appearing on the show, according to The Mirror. The incident didn't put Joly off from future reality television appearances, with the comedian appearing as a contestant during the 2016 season of "Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls."

The Amazing Race's father-son team pulls too hard

The teams competing in "The Amazing Race" come from a variety of backgrounds, be it co-workers, friends, couples, or family. These bonds are tested as the duos endure some of the strangest, most grueling challenges around the world to determine which team is eliminated each week. "The Amazing Race" Season 14 featured one father-son team who suffered a notably painful experience right during the season premiere in one of the show's more unusual injuries.

In a nod to the season premiere's opening location, Switzerland, the teams were tasked with carrying four 50-pound cheese wheels down a hill using a fragile backpack. Among the participating teams was father-son duo Mel and Mike White, who quickly discovered they bit off more than they could chew. Mel severely pulled his groin during the challenge and was forced to gingerly transport the cheese by inching along on his butt with the cheese in his lap. The team would eventually be eliminated in the sixth episode but returned for "The Amazing Race" Season 18 along with other past participants.

Tumble leaves one amateur gymnast bruised up

As previously observed, British reality television has absolutely no qualms about putting celebrity contestants through all manner of physical peril for the sake of entertainment. This remains true for the short-lived competitive series "Tumble," which ran for a single season in 2014 and had its participants perform increasingly complex gymnastics routines. Even paired with professional gymnast mentors, the contestants found the experience of learning gymnastics to be a fairly sore experience.

Reality TV star Lucy Mecklenburgh was among the show's contestants, paired with mentor Billy George to learn how to perform the intricate routines. Shortly after The Mirror reported that she had endured some prominent bruising along her upper thigh from the initial round of training, the Daily Mail revealed that Mecklenburgh gave herself a black eye as she was rehearsing over the course of the series. Mecklenburgh would ultimately last until the series' penultimate episode, making all that pain and gain worth it in comparison to her less successful peers.

Wheel of Fortune tests the limits of common knowledge

Not all game show fails are physically painful in nature, but the embarrassment of broadcasting one's ignorance to the world is certainly excruciating in its own right. The public humiliation is palpable in a 2022 episode of "Wheel of Fortune," with all three contestants failing to solve a relatively simple puzzle, even with virtually all the letters completed. And immediately after the episode aired, social media was already in a frenzy lambasting the show's contestants' inability to solve the puzzle.

Trying to solve for a five-word phrase "another feather in your cap," the three contestants respond with everything from "another feather in your hat" to "another feather in your map." Ultimately, the puzzle was solved after eight rounds and ten attempts before the correct answer was finally delivered, and the show continued. Host Pat Sajak would later defend the contestants' struggle to solve the puzzle, remarking that the experience in solving a puzzle is "different in the studio" setting.

Jeopardy! provides the ultimate no-win situation for Wolf Blitzer

"Jeopardy!" is something of an American television institution. Its current iteration has been on the air since 1984, famously featuring contestants answering trivia questions on a wide range of topics. In order to benefit a variety of charities, "Jeopardy!" periodically features special episodes with celebrity questions competing on the popular game show. In an infamous 2009 appearance, CNN political journalist and commentator Wolf Blitzer was the subject of perhaps the most embarrassing celebrity appearance on the show to date.

Appearing on the show alongside fellow contestants Dana Delany and Andy Richter, Blitzer answered only five out of his eleven attempts correctly over the course of the competition. Coming out of a Double Jeopardy round, Blitzer had an astonishingly low score of -$4600 and was given thousands of in-game money to compete in Final Jeopardy! — where he similarly lost. More surprisingly, Blitzer was not a "Jeopardy!" novice, having previously competed in a celebrity appearance in 1997, making his poor 2009 performance all the more perplexing.

Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! lives on in Japanese game show infamy

From "Saturday Night Live" to "The Simpsons," Japan's reputation for punishing game show contestants in some of its TV programming has become something of a recurring pop culture trope. This is apparent in shows like the obstacle course-driven series "Takeshi's Castle" or the long-running reality show "Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!" One particular challenge was particularly grueling for its contestants and enough to make anyone wince watching it, with or without any Japanese language comprehension.

Five comedians are lined up and tasked with reciting a complicated, tongue-twister of phrase while being closely watched by a judge. Even the slightest slip-up results in them failing the challenge and being smacked square in the groin by an especially sadistic contraption. While contestants would face a full battery of challenges, there is something about this specific trial that revels in the televised schadenfreude.

Survivor: David vs. Goliath suffers an unexpected early loss

For "Survivor" Season 37, the long-running reality competition show decided to pit perceived underdogs against overachieving alpha types in Fiji, subtitling the season "David vs. Goliath." The very first contestant to be eliminated from the season was Pat Cusack, one of the designated underdogs, who left the show three days into filming. However, in contrast to his fellow contestants, Pat wasn't voted off the island, but departed after suffering a severe spinal injury resulting in him being airlifted from the show.

While the contestants were returning to the island by boat, the ship was hit hard by a wave, resulting in Pat hurting his back, with his injury later diagnosed as spinal compression deterioration. Though Pat's injury wasn't filmed, the immediate aftermath once the boat made landfall was, with Pat shown experiencing intense pain and immobilized while struggling to maintain his composure. Though Pat recovered back home after being medically evacuated, his early departure made "Survivor" Season 37 begin on a decidedly painful note.

The Amazing Race gives an impromptu facelift

Of all the contestants on "The Amazing Race," some of the most unflappable are the married couple Gretchen and Meredith Smith who appeared on Season 7. The Smiths held the distinction of being the oldest couple to make it the final tour on "The Amazing Race" to date, progressing due to their tight teamwork and stoic resilience. And the most visible testament to the couple's endurance and good humor about themselves occurred when Gretchen endured a particularly bloody injury.

While Gretchen and Meredith went on a spelunking challenge to search for a clue, Gretchen slipped and cut her face badly in the darkened cave. By the time the medics arrived on the scene, Gretchen's face was covered with blood, with Gretchen joking that she had wanted to receive a facelift for some time. While Gretchen and Meredith may not have won their race, Gretchen's good-natured reaction to her injury underscores why the couple was so memorable compared to their competitors.

The Bachelor airs the most painfully awkward breakup of all time

Of all the dating reality shows on television, "The Bachelor" is something of a gold standard for the genre, as contestants vie for the affection of its eligible lead. This leads to all manner of heartbreak and humiliation, as the competitors go through outrageous lengths to rise above the other suitors and let their love conquer all. The most painfully awkward and heartbreaking incident on "The Bachelor" to date occurred after a winner was presumably selected, resulting in a publicly messy breakup after the season concluded.

"The Bachelor" Season 22 unfolded much like any of the previous seasons, with the cutthroat competition and dangerous liaisons culminating in Arie Luyendyk proposing to Becca Kufrin in the season finale. Arie quickly recognized that he had made a mistake, however, appearing in a follow-up television denouement to break up with Becca and embark on a romance with the season's runner-up Lauren Burnham instead. "Bachelor" fans denounced Arie for the public switch after the season finale and the idea of using a whole episode broadcast after the intended finale makes for one of the most painfully embarrassing breakups in television history.

Cheer reveals the agonizing side of cheerleading

The high stakes world of competitive cheerleading is explored in the Netflix original reality series "Cheer," with the first season following the Navarro College Bulldogs on the national stage. Traveling from their home campus in Texas to the National Cheerleading Championship in Daytona, Florida, the Bulldogs pulled out all the stops in their bid to win the competition. But for all the practice that the cheerleaders undergo to emerge triumphant, one nasty accident on the mat sidelines a prominent Bulldog.

During the Bulldogs' national championship performance, their teammate Austin Bayles injured his ankle, forcing the rest of the team to pause their showcase and scramble to find a replacement. The injury came after Austin performed a series of back handsprings, coming down painfully on his left ankle and causing him to watch the rest of the team perform from the sidelines. Fortunately, the Bulldogs proceeded to win the 2019 championship title without Austin, with the cheerleader transferring to Texas Tech University the following year rather than remain at Navarro.

Survivor: Panama gives its champion a bloody victory

Season 12 of "Survivor" took place in Panama, as four tribes competed against each other on the Pearl Islands to crown the season's sole survivor. The winner was Aras Baskauskas, who was voted sole survivor by his fellow contestants at the end of the season, but Aras' final day was not a complete triumph. On the last day of filming, Aras suffered a gruesome injury that resulted in him receiving stitches before leaving the islands for good.

While celebrating making it to the final day, Aras and his fellow contestant Danielle DiLorenzo drank a bottle of champagne together on some rocks. While drinking, Aras slipped and fell, dropping the bottle, which shattered below him before he fell on top of the broken glass. Aras received seven stitches from the attending medics on the spot after cutting up his hand and back before triumphing over Danielle as the season champion.