United States Military Parachute Injuries: Part 2: Interventions Reducing Military Parachute Injuries in Training and Operations

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Knapik JJ 19(4). 109 - 113 (Journal Article)

This is part 2 of an article detailing the reduction in airbornerelated injuries over time. Part 1 examined the early history of airborne operations and provided evidence for the reduction in injuries over time; part 2 discusses interventions associated with the decline in injury rates. In 1943 at the United States (US) Army Airborne School, data showed that injuries were substantially reduced from 120 to 18 injuries/1000 trainees. Credit for the reduction was given to development of the parachute landing fall (PLF), better supervision of students while in initial airborne training, intensive ground training prior to actual jumping, and elimination of dangerous and unnecessary training procedures (like practice jumps from 11-foot heights). Compared to the older T-10 parachute introduced in the 1950s, the newer T-11 parachute introduced in 2010 reduced injuries by 43% in operational training (9.1 vs 5.2 injuries/1000 jumps). In aircraft with jump doors on both sides, alternating jumps between the doors so that the jumpers exit at slightly different times reduced high-altitude and mid-altitude entanglement injuries by 85% (0.13 to 0.02 injury/ 1000 jumps). Data from six scientific studies involving more than 1,300,000 jumps and two systematic reviews indicated that the parachute ankle brace (PAB) reduced ankle injuries and ankle fractures by about half with an estimated return on investment of at least $7 in medical and personnel costs for every $1 spent on the PAB. However, the PAB is not currently used or even well-known within the airborne community because of a lack of acceptance and promotion. While some airborne injury-reducing innovations are discussed here it is likely that there have been others that have not been documented. It is important to detail these interventions so future paratroopers and leaders can better understanding their rationale and effectiveness.

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