Parachute jumping

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On occasions, the subject for getting a note from your doctor. As with any request for a letter, one should avoid declaring somebody fit for an activity, particularly one with potential risks that a doctor cannot take responsibility for.

As a charity activity, it may not be cost-effective![1]

Several physiological stresses of jumping from an airplane and also landing must be taken into account. These considerations are not trivial and if doubt, consider referral to the Medical Adviser to the British Parachute Association or the National Coach and Safety Officer.

The criteria for tandem jumps are less stringent than for solo jumps, as explained in the guidance accompanying the relevant declaration forms from the British Parachute Association:

It may be possible, as in Ireland, for people planning a parachute jump to provide a declaration that they are fit, rather than requiring a doctor's note to that effect.

Physiological Demands

Firstly, planes may fly unpressurised at heights of up to 15000 feet, at which the pO2 of oxygen may be 40% lower than that at sea level. A compensatory tachycardia may be observed in the absence of exertion, with further increases in heart rate with the physical effort. Conditions affecting cardiorespiratory reserve therefore present a risk.

The mechanical force of deceleration during landing, even with the cushioning effect of the parachute are considerable. According to one consent form which provides guidance for doctors[4], the force is equivalent to jumping off a 4-foot wall with a horizontal speed of between 0-15 mph. Osteoporosis and previous spine, joint or bony injuries may be a contra-indication. A BMI of more than 27.5 is associated with a higher rate of injuries, although with the caveat this does not apply to high BMIs associated with a muscular build.

Visual acuity must be at least 6/12 after correction with glasses or contact lenses. Conditions or drugs affecting the mental state are regarded be a contraindication. Any conditions which could result in even momentary lapses of consciousness such as epilepsy are considered dangerous.

Parachuting as a metaphor

Parachuting has been used as a metaphor in the discussion of evidence-based practice.[5]


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