Parachuting: a sport of chance and expense.

Abstract

This paper seeks to determine the cost to the NHS associated with treating parachute-related injuries. More specifically, it compares the training received by civilians to that received by military personnel together with the types of parachutes used or the type of jump. It also reviews the information given to civilian jumpers prior to their first jump. Fifty-three jumpers suffered injuries in the period under review. Of these, 32 cases with 41 injuries were transferred to Accident and Emergency Department for treatment. Injuries involved most of the musculoskeletal system. Twenty-six (n=32) patients were admitted for treatment, with an average length of hospital stay of 6.8 days. Post-discharge, the length of time lost from work was 42.8 days. The cost to the NHS was calculated at pound 4026.50 per patient treated. This did not include time lost from work, subsequent follow up or any other secondary procedures. Civilian parachute jumpers were trained for 6.5h compared to 31.5h for military personnel. Twenty-seven patients used rectangular rather than circular parachutes. Thirty of the 41 injuries occurred during static line jumps, with 7 occurring during tandem jumps and only 5 during free-fall jumps. Twenty-three of the 32 jumpers sustained the injury during their first jump. First-time civilian jumpers were given a minimum of information regarding risks and injuries prior to their jump and were inadequately insured against potential injuries. The cost of caring for these patients is substantial when compared to the money that is raised for charity during some of the jumps. Private insurance, with the NHS legally able to claim expenses would help to offset these medical costs. It is also possible that by increasing civilian training, there may be a reduction in the number of injuries sustained by first-time civilian jumpers from 1.1 to 1.2% (11% in charity jumps) to the military figures of 0.22-0.89%.

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