How Common Are Skydiving Injuries?
Skydiving injuries are uncommon, but they do still happen. Here, we’ll explore some skydiving injury statistics, how common skydiving injuries are, and what we do to negate the risk as skydivers.
Skydiving Injuries Statistics
The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is the governing body for the sport of skydiving in the US. The USPA gathers data every year on the number of skydives made and the skydiving injury rate sustained during those jumps. According to the latest data, USPA members reported 252 incidents in 2021.
With a total of around 3.2 million skydives made that year, that’s roughly 2.3 injuries per 10,000 skydives. A tiny proportion of the total number of jumps.
What Are The Most Common Skydiving Injuries?
While skydiving injuries are rare, when they do happen, they tend to happen on landing. That’s because our bodies are slowing from a forward speed of around 20-30 mph under your parachute to a complete standstill. If we don’t operate the parachute correctly, (i.e., we forget to slow down or slow down too late), it can result in ankle or leg injuries as we come into contact with the ground.
Similarly, tandem skydivers are briefed to lift their legs up for landing. This allows the instructor to take the impact, which they minimize through the correct operation of the parachute, while the tandem student’s legs are out of the way. More often than not, tandem skydivers land on their backsides to further negate the risk.
Skydiving Injuries And The Media
We know that the media can be quite negative in its portrayal of skydiving. The reason for that is simple; with 3.2 million skydives made in a year and the majority of them injury-free, to report on every one of those would be impossible. Plus, a story of yet another incident-free and safe skydive isn’t going to make the front page!
When a skydiving injury does happen, the media can be quick to grab onto it. A story about a skydive gone wrong has much more of a sensationalist spin than one that goes well. The reality is that more often than not (as the statistics prove), skydives go ahead without injury or incident.
Skydiving fatalities do, sadly but rarely, happen. It’s the nature of any extreme sport that occasionally, things do go wrong. However, the majority of those incidents happen when highly experienced skydivers perform advanced maneuvers or through human error. While we do everything we can to negate this risk, incidents can happen.
According to the USPA, there were 10 fatalities out of 3.57 million jumps in 2021 – that’s a rate of 1 fatality in 357,000 jumps – and most of those fatalities were not caused by equipment malfunction, but rather by licensed skydivers pushing themselves beyond their limits.
This comes from the USPA website:
“According to the National Safety Council, a person is much more likely to be killed getting struck by lightning or stung by a bee.”
If you are thinking about skydiving with us and have any concerns at all, get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you have.
Skydiving Risks for Tandem Jumps
Every year, we welcome thousands of first-time skydivers here at Skydive California (in the Bay Area) to make their first jump, usually as a tandem. Tandem skydiving is the most popular way to experience skydiving for the first time. Here, we explore tandem skydiving risks and explain why this sport is the safest it’s ever been.
Tandem Skydiving In The U.S.
Skydiving has grown in popularity here in the US over the years. According to USPA (United States Parachute Association) statistics, there were an estimated 3.2 million skydives made in 2014 by skydivers across the country.
What Is A Tandem Skydive?
Tandem skydiving is the preferred choice of most first timers because it gives them the opportunity to experience the feeling of jumping from an airplane, without having to go through extensive training to do it alone. All you need is a brief from one of our highly experienced instructors, (which takes around 20 minutes), then you’re able to jump.
As a tandem skydiver, you’ll be attached to your instructor by four connection points on your harness which securely fasten you to the instructor’s harness and rig. The ‘rig’ is the container which holds, among other things, two parachutes. We’ll talk about this a bit later on in this article.
Tandem Skydiving Risks
Tandem skydiving, like any extreme sport, comes with its associated risks. The very fact that you’re jumping from an airplane means you are stepping outside of what’s ‘normal’ for a human being and as such, every now and again, something happens that wasn’t part of the original plan.
Typically, skydiving accidents are very uncommon and usually minor. The most common skydiving accident for tandem skydivers is a sprained or broken ankle sustained on landing. This typically happens when tandem skydivers fail to follow the brief. It clearly states they should lift their legs for landing. Providing you lift your legs up as instructed, you’re far less likely to sustain a landing injury.
Tandem skydiving gives most people a huge burst of adrenaline, too. This can result in you feeling overwhelmed, dizzy or nauseous, but is not a common occurrence.
Though nausea and landing injuries are by far the most common skydiving risks or injuries involved, there are, in a very small number of cases, a skydiving fatality. This is something we do all we can to protect you and ourselves against. According to USPA safety statistics, there were 0.003 tandem fatalities per 1,000 jumps over the past decade. As stated on the USPA website, “a person is much more likely to be killed getting struck by lightning or stung by a bee.“
How We Minimize Skydiving Risks
The sport of skydiving is getting safer every year thanks to continuing research into our equipment and safety tools.
Though we can never 100% abolish the risks of skydiving (we’re jumping out of an airplane after all), we do all we can to negate them as much as possible. Here are just a few of the provisions we have in place to help everything go to plan:
Planning for the unplanned
We talk a lot about planning in this sport. We plan who we jump with, types of formations, and even jump order.
But we also do a lot of planning for those things which are against our normal plans, too.
For example, our plan is always to use our primary parachute (or our ‘main canopy’) when the time comes to reduce our fall rate and fly back to the ground. However, there are times (around one in every thousand jumps or so) that our main canopy fails for some reason. That’s why we jump with two parachutes! If the main parachute has a malfunction, we can ‘cut away’ the parachute and deploy a reserve parachute.
We’re always sure to plan for those things which are outside of our best case scenario. Nothing is unexpected and our instructors are trained to cope with unexpected situations.
Automatic activation devices (AADs)
AADs are one of the most important innovations of skydiving today.
A small device which sits inside the ‘rig’, the AAD measures air pressure and speed and knows when we are still in freefall at a height where we should have deployed our parachute.
If a skydiver failed to pull their parachute, an AAD is designed to ‘pull’ the parachute.
The AAD recognizes this and sets off a small cutter which releases the reserve parachute automatically. This is a last resort device, but provides us with that extra level of protection should something go awry.
Training plays a hugely important part in skydiving. From our very first jump course, we learn with precision how to fly our bodies and operate our equipment in the most efficient and effective ways.
Our training doesn’t end when we achieve our skydiving licenses either. Every jump is an opportunity to learn something new and there are lots of formal qualification routes to take. Our instructors are all accredited by the USPA and have passed strict courses and exams.
If you’re thinking about tandem skydiving in the Bay Area for the first time and wish to speak to us about any concerns you have, please contact us and our friendly team will be happy to help.
Risks of Skydiving
If anyone ever told you this, you can doubt their sanity. Yes, skydiving is relatively safe for an extreme sport – but safety depends on many factors: experience, equipment and your knowledge about the possible risks.
There are dangers in skydiving and you must recognize them and take action to avoid incident or injury. The purpose of this article is not to scare you away from this wonderful sport but to encourage you to think twice before doing “brave” or possibly “stupid” things. Most accidents in skydiving are due to bad decisions and wrong procedures.
Most accidents in skydiving are due to bad decisions and wrong procedures”
If one of your goals in skydiving is to fill your Facebook and Instagram with cool photos and videos… I’m sorry, this is not the best motivation for a life-threatening activity!
Premature opening during a skydive
Knowing the risks of skydiving does not eliminate them but it certainly makes the jumps much safer”
The main risks of skydiving
Let’s explore the main risks of skydiving that you should take into account…
1. Equipment failure
Despite what most people may think, equipment problems are very rare reasons for skydiving deaths. Although there may be a problem with the main canopy, to have a problem with the reserve also is extremely unusual.
Solution: The obvious way to reduce the risk of equipment failure is to choose a reliable manufacturer with a long reputation.
2. Borrowed equipment
if you jump with borrowed gear and it carries unknown elements (like a Skyhook for example or a freefly pud) and you do not know how they work, you can have problems when executing basic procedures. Jumping with equipment that you do not know or with different characteristics from that you’re used to, such as the type of canopy or harness size, increases the risk of incident.
Solution: Always talk to an instructor/rigger before jumping a rig/canopy you do not know and consider making a solo jump to focus on any new equipment.
3. Bad weather conditions
Unfriendly weather is one of the main reasons for many skydiving accidents. Strong winds, thermals, turbulence, or variable winds can collapse the canopy with potentially fatal consequences.
Solution: Keep yourself informed about the weather conditions when jumping. Learning to make correct decisions based on this information and your limitations can save your life. Better to be on the ground wanting to be in the air, than to be in the air wanting to be on the ground.
4. Medical risks
Skydiving is not an extremely exhausting sport but still requires a good physical condition. All the risks of skydiving become more pronounced if you mix it with medical problems.
Solution: People with heart disease, very overweight or with bone problems should think twice about skydiving, and consult a specialist.
The author’s friend Sergio, after an injury landing
5. Landing injuries
The risk of small landing injuries can not be neglected. You can twist your ankle or break a bone. The most frequent incidents are minor landing injuries and, although these accidents are not severe, they must be taken into account when calculating the risks of skydiving.
Solution: Investing in canopy courses minimizes these risks. Choose a canopy size and model appropriate to your skill level and experience. Err on the safe side.
In skydiving, it is better to be prudent and conservative than brave and fearless”
This is a primary reason for skydiving deaths. Some overestimate their abilities and try to perform jumps that are too complex or high risk for their experience and knowledge. Others do not place enough importance on the fundamentals of safety or make poor equipment choices.
Solution: Make sure you are on top of basic safety matters, such as gear maintenance, practising EPs and learning about your equipment. Avoid the complacency trap. In skydiving, it is better to be prudent and conservative than brave and fearless – especially if you want to continue for many years.
Knowing the risks of skydiving does not eliminate them but it makes your jumps much safer. Stay informed, study and keep learning, know your equipment, ask the experts and invest your time in educating yourself.
Article by Ana Paula Santos Figliagi, originally written in Spanish and translated to English
Comparing the relative risks of skydiving, other extreme sports, and the risk of living… here