How Common Are Skydiving Injuries?
At this point, you probably know just how incredibly rare it is for someone to die as the result of a skydive. (If you don’t, let’s put it this way: it’s way more likely that you’ll die in the car on the way to the grocery store than on a jump when looking at skydiving statistics.)
Actually dying, however, isn’t the only thing you’re worried about, is it? Like most people, you’re probably worried about hurting yourself and having to explain to your boss on Monday morning why you have a broken leg.
Luckily, that’s not something to fuss over, either–and we’ll tell you why. Here are some facts to keep in mind.
1. New stuff = less ouchies
Skydiving, back in the bad old days, used to be a very injurious hobby indeed. Round parachutes, which went pretty much straight downwards from the airplane, dumped their passengers tookis-over-teakettle without so much as a by-your-leave. Round parachutes weren’t steerable by modern standards, so they had a nasty tendency to land in trees and power lines–and they didn’t have the gadgets we all have now, which open our parachutes in case we’re somehow unable to.
Cypres AAD (Automatic Activation Device)
Thanks to modern technology, all that has elementally changed. Skydiving “canopies,” as we call them now, are square airfoils that glide over the ground to a soft landing–much in the same way as a well-piloted aircraft. Our reserve parachutes can open themselves. GPS positioning allows us to exit in safe air on every jump. These items add up! Back in the day, broken limbs were part of the sport; these days, skydiving injuries don’t come along very often.
2. The numbers are clear on the matter.
What’s the most horrific thing you can imagine happening up there? Probably, if you’re like the vast majority of prospective tandem skydiving students, your biggest nightmare is about the parachute not opening. Well, that only happens about once in every 500 skydives–and get this–the reserve parachute is generally out so quickly and so smoothly that the tandem student doesn’t usually even know that it happened. It may sound crazy, but injuries from such an eventuality are as rare as a swear word in a Saturday morning cartoon.
We only have the data on injuries from polls of the general–which includes every license-holding USPA member worldwide. That includes sport jumpers who rack up fifteen jumps a day; dedicated edge-pushers who are testing the limits of human flight; professional camera flyers who roll back the throttle to make sure they’re on the ground in time to capture your triumphant landing. In the entire membership, the reported injuries calculate out to about 1 injury per 1,800 skydives. Pretty amazing, huh?
3. Tandem students are the safest fliers in the sky.
Statistically, it’s the most experienced skydivers that contribute to those skydiving injury statistics, however small they are. Tandem students rarely experience anything other than the most wildly fun moments they’ve ever had!
Tandem Skydiving at Skydive California in Northern California
The only reports we’ve seen are dings taken to those pesky ankles–which is the number one cause of injury in tandem skydiving, so it’s unsurprising. The good news is that avoiding ankle injury is easy, if you wear solid, lace-up footwear and lift your feet, as instructed, for the landing.
If you’re curious about anything related to skydiving injuries (or skydiving safety in a more general sense), please don’t hesitate to ask. We’re here and happy to be your skydiving educational resource!
Top Skydiving Myths
Have you ever wondered how loud you have to yell in freefall for others to hear you? Well, stop wondering. You actually can’t be heard in freefall. Like, at all. Once the canopy opens it’s a different story, but talking in freefall just doesn’t happen. There are stories upon stories of skydiving experiences out there, and we’re excited for you to add your unique experience to the mix. Let us debunk some of the most common skydiving myths so you can be prepared for what to expect when you make the jump of a lifetime.
You go up when the parachute opens
Negative. Your rate of descent actually just s lows down and gives the illusion that you’re going up . You go from rushing towards the earth at around 120mph to an average descent rate of about 15mph. Now, that seems like a big difference! Yes, but the way the canopy is snatched and opens to fill with air is designed to be seamless.
The reason that skydivers seem to go up in videos once their canopy is opened is because of the way the photos or videos are shot. Typically, the tandem pair deploying the canopy is recorded by a camera person who is still in freefall, and this is when we can actually visualize the average 100mph difference in the jumpers.
Skydiving is extremely dangerous
Everyone who steps foot on the dropzone has safety at the forefront of their mind. Statistically, you’re more likely to get hurt driving to the dropzone than you are on the actual skydive. Nonetheless, being apprehensive about skydiving is not invalid. However, fatal skydiving accidents are rare and, by and large, preventable.
Advancements in gear
Skydiving gear is constantly improving. The advancements made in the last decade are unmatched, and manufacturers are always listening to input from skydivers to make their gear more comfortable and efficient. Manufacturers produce safety labels on gear that show regulations and recommendations for optimal use of the gear. Skydivers follow these instructions to ensure the safest and most enjoyable experience possible.
Who makes sure skydivers stay safe?
On top of looking out for one another, skydivers are kept in check by dropzone owners, managers, safety and training advisors, pilots, packers, ground crew, manifest workers, and a plethora of others who allow our beloved sport to continuously thrive. Acting above those listed is the United States Parachute Association (USPA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The USPA produces non-negotiable regulations (called basic safety requirements or “BSR’s”) as well as safety suggestions for skydivers. The FAA is the government agency that makes sure our pilots are operating safely.
Skydiving, like any extreme sport, has just enough risk to make it fun, but extremely dangerous ? Nah.
It feels like a roller coaster when you jump
Some people love the stomach drop that happens while riding a roller coaster or driving over rolling hills. Other people absolutely despise it. Regardless of what type of person you are, you don’t have to wonder about experiencing this during your jump.
It’s common to think you’ll experience this feeling when you jump from a plane, because, well … you’re jumping from a plane! However, we have to account for how fast the plane is moving forward PLUS the downward speed we’ll gain as we fall.
When you jump out of a plane, you go down something we call the hill. All this means is that you surf on the wind from the plane for a bit before you start accelerating downward. Essentially, you’re not going 0 to 100, you’re going approximately 100 to 120 (miles per hour, that is).
Everyone falls at the same speed
We’ve all heard that you reach terminal velocity in freefall, but what does that even mean? And do you? Yes, but terminal velocity is different for everyone! Terminal velocity is c reated and affected by different factors, unlike gravity, which is a constant force. It’s basically the weight, density, shape, and drag (extra clothing, etc.) of the skydiver combined that determines everyone’s unique terminal velocity.
Think about this, if you dropped a feather and brick at the same time, which one would hit the ground first? The brick, hands down. This would be different on the moon, because of gravity (or lack thereof). In order to fall at the same rate as other jumpers, we have jumpsuits and weight belts! Typically, lighter people struggle to increase their fall rate, so they’ll wear tight-fitting jumpsuits. There are baggier jumpsuits designed to slow jumpers down, allowing people of varying sizes to jump together! So, will you feel like you were falling slower or faster than your pal? No.
Skydivers can freefall in different orientations (belly-to-earth, sitting, head down, etc.) and these all affect their terminal velocity. For example, the friction of the air is greater when a jumper is falling belly-to-earth, because they are presenting more surface area. If they flip over to be standing or on their head, they have less surface area, less friction, and will therefore speed up.
Skydivers are crazy
Skydivers enjoy doing a deliberate and premeditated activity with a community that supports them, and that definitely doesn’t make them crazy. Skydivers are learners, teachers, and conquerors of fear , not thrill-seekers and risk-takers. Something that makes skydiving such a unique sport is inclusivity. Regardless of the differences that we all battle on the ground; they simply don’t exist in the sky. Skydiving truly gives you a different perspective, and while the jump itself lasts about 10 minutes, it has the power to benefit you for the rest of your life. You will find that skydivers are some of the kindest and most safety-oriented people that this world has to offer.
So, don’t worry about the myths, like “can you breathe while skydiving?” YES … there’s plenty of air and it is self-serve! Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We can’t wait to see you in the air!
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.