Using parachutes: why jumping to conclusions was wrong

It has long been taken for granted that people jumping from airplanes wearing (and deploying) parachutes suffer less trauma than those without parachutes.

This kind of anecdotal evidence lacks scientific rigor. Finally, a respected publication (the British Medical Journal) has published a randomized controlled study to examine the issue, with surprising results.

*Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial

Discussion: We have performed the first randomized clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of parachutes for preventing death or major traumatic injury among individuals jumping from aircraft. Our groundbreaking study found no statistically significant difference in the primary outcome between the treatment and control arms. Our findings should give momentary pause to experts who advocate for routine use of parachutes for jumps from aircraft in recreational or military settings…
Should our results be reproduced in future studies, the end of routine parachute use during jumps from aircraft could save the global economy billions of dollars spent annually to prevent injuries related to gravitational challenge.*

One hopes this groundbreaking study will prompt reexamination of assumptions about other widely held but untested beliefs, such as commonplace recommendation for surgery when someone suffers a ruptured viscus (i.e. appendix or bowel), or for routine vaccination starting in infancy. Surely (as in the parachute study) we can find willing volunteers to be randomized into medical intervention/no intervention groups and thus truly bring medical practice into the 21st century.


Examination of documentation is essential.

It’s a myth that you need a parachute to skydive. You just need one to skydive twice.

From the linked study.


Relevant video

I see an IgNobel in the future of this team.

Wonderful! Thanks for that link. I will be sharing it widely.

You don’t even need to dig that deep. It’s right there in the abstract under “results” if you read carefully.

Even from .6 m, you should be better off with a parachute if you arrange to land on it.