The military airborne operations began back in the World War II era, when the U.S. Army Airborne Test Platoon tried out their very first parachute, the “T-4,” in the year 1940
Now a days, parachute technology advancements and safety standards have greatly increased the Army’s level of combat airborne operations. But although they endure intense training and safety courses, parachuting far and away the number one cause of lower limb fractures in the Army to date.
Injuries that commonly take place during airborne operations result in hospitalizations, and lost duty time. Some can
even have permanent career or life-long impacts, such as neck and spine injuries.
Which are the most common parachuting injuries and why do they occur? Injuries to the lower extremities, low back, and head are most common with head injuries/concussions being a key concern.
Through the years injuries have taken place in all phases of the jump with impact as the primary culprit. Upon landing, troopers are taught to execute a “parachute landing fall” (PLF) which distributes the ground impact across the body. A variety of environmental conditions wind, terrain, and the velocity of which the Soldier contacts the ground can make it difficult to execute the PLF properly
Risk factors include older age, lower fitness level, greater body weight, and female gender (apparently this has been proven through stats, sorry ladies) amongst others…
Here are some other injury factors:
Injury risk rise when the paratrooper jumps at night rather then day. Clearly due to reduced visibility and depth perception, which makes it extremely hard to avoid obstacles during the landing or descent.
Higher winds greatly inhibit the ability to pull off a controlled landing. Winds may increase landing speed and reduce time to react. Strong winds also cause collisions with trees, landing off the drop zone and by being dragged across the ground by the chute.
Jumps on dirt airfields or areas characterized or surrounded by uneven ground, trees, and embankments are particularly dangerous.
Rotary-wing aircraft leave paratroopers with more room to perform the jump, thereby lessening the risk for entanglements. Exits from the side of the plane (as opposed to the tail end) have demonstrated increased injury risks due to entanglements
Higher temperatures have associated with higher injury rates. When air is less dense the result is a faster descent due to less resistance, causing difficulties with the PLF.
Injury risk also increases with greater parachute load. Heavier weight results in faster descent and harder ground impact. While in a jump, additional equipment first precedes the trooper upon landing. This can be an additional landing hazard
In a recent study injury occurence between the two latest systems, the T-10 and T-11. The T-11 was found to have a lower injury rate. The T-10 had a higher risk for key injuries such as closed-head injuries and fractures.