In many ways, the human body is just as amazing dead as it is alive. Here are four weird foreign sports your body continues to play even after you die.
Most people know that upon death your body’s muscles are stiffened by the phenomenon of rigor mortis, but not many know that rigor mortis also causes your body’s muscles to play a Southeast Asian sport resembling volleyball using a woven rattan ball. It’s called sepak takraw, and unlike volleyball, players can use any part of their body besides their hands to launch the ball over the net, which allows corpses with limited dexterity to ably compete using whatever appendages still retain some posthumous function. Despite most Americans never having even heard of the sport, it’s so popular in Asia that it’s expected to become an Olympic event, potentially making it the first Olympic sport you keep playing after you die.
Here’s some information that’s as fascinating as it is creepy: Long after brain function has stopped, residual electricity left in your body will cause it to play elephant polo. This curious bodily function was first noted in 1862 by a mortician who observed that corpses would “commonly compete professionally in the obscure sport of elephant polo” even after they’d been embalmed. Occasionally, grieving family members have even had the displeasure of witnessing their loved one’s corpse leave an open casket to climb atop an elephant and competently play this Indian sport.
The fact that you keep playing the bizarre Finnish sport of wife carrying—where men compete carrying women through obstacle courses in the fastest possible time—postmortem seems almost supernatural. But like anything, there’s a rational scientific explanation for your body playing such a strange foreign sport after it dies. Decomposition during the body’s putrefaction stage produces gases that propel the body to continue some natural physical functions even after death, twitching and spasming in a sufficiently coordinated manner to compete in this unusual Nordic racing sport for up to five weeks after death. It’s really not all that mind-blowing once you understand that your dead body is simply responding to ordinary internal chemical reactions that trigger the same physiological wife-carrying impulse you experience every day while still alive.
Okay, this one isn’t going to be pretty, but no one ever said death was an easy topic to deal with. After you die, your bladder and bowels continue to empty, which propels your body to play the absolutely insane Central Asian sport of buzkashi, where players on horses or yaks attempt to place a goat carcass in a goal. Rocketed to and fro by the spray of one’s own feces, corpses can continue to compete at a high level in this sport for up to two days after death, at which point one’s bowels have usually been thoroughly voided and can no longer supply the necessary propulsion to hold one’s own on the buzkashi pitch. “Certain sports that the body plays after death may be disturbing to us, but we must understand that these aspects of death are perfectly natural,” says Stanford thanatologist Jessica Reaver. “Having our bodies play sports such as buzkashi after we die is just as much a part of the life cycle as birth, sex, and love. It’s hard to believe, but in a way I find it comforting to know that my body will continue to play these weird-ass foreign sports even after I die.”