Free Falling: Characteristics and Prevention of Injury and Death in Extreme Aerial Sports Tourists

Document Type : Perspective


1 School of Medicine, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland

2 Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand



Extreme aerial sports are unique in terms of their high degree of lethality, life-changing injuries, and the lack of experience required by amateur participants. As society gradually re-emerges from the pandemic, we are likely to witness a renewed interest in outdoor adventure activities, including extreme aerial sports such as bungee jumping and skydiving. Sports physicians, general practitioners and travel medicine advisers should have a basic familiarity with the risks associated with bungee jumping and skydiving. Serious injury can occur during bungee jumping when the safety harness fails, the cord elasticity is miscalculated, or the cord is not properly connected to the platform. There is a predominance of ocular injuries, especially retinal haemorrhage. More severe non-fatal injuries include facet joint dislocation with quadriplegia, carotid artery dissection, and non-fatal hanging. The majority of adverse skydiving incidents occur during the landing phase and most injuries involve the lower extremities. When travelling as a skydiving tourist, individuals should carry documents explaining each aspect of the equipment and a note for security personnel. Tourists should check if their insurance covers skydiving. Future research should investigate the experiences of aerial sports tourists, in relation to the level of preparation and safety measures applied to their jumps.