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spencersmith233

Can I jump with a spinal fusion?

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I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Did his cervical fusion contribute to being paralyzed on the hard opening?



I'll let stayhigh reply to that, but he seems to be implying that.

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Is a reserve expected to open hard?



In a sense, yes. Because they sometimes must be deployed quite low, reserves are designed and packed to open quickly; usually more quickly than most mains. That means a reserve has a greater chance (i.e., greater than most mains) of giving you a particularly "brisk", or even hard, opening, especially if it's deployed at or near terminal velocity.

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Do you expect injuries?



The chances of a very brisk opening are greater with most reserves than with most mains. So if you're already more vulnerable to potential injury in the event of a brisk opening, that may be all the more the case if you have to deploy your reserve.

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Can hard openings (main) be prevented with the right canopy, lines, and pack job?



They can be reduced, but they cannot be eliminated. Given your particular medical condition: do you feel lucky?

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Would a static line jump help avoid a hard opening, since you're going slower?



Possibly, but:
(a) it's not unusual for student S/L jumpers to have bad body position and thus be unstable while their canopy is deploying. If you're on your back and the canopy is deploying up through your legs, the opening will whip you around quite a bit. Imagine the bio-mechanics of how those forces will translate to your spine. Also,
(b) Even if you're jumping S/L or IAD, if you have a main malfunction, you might still wind up deploying your reserve at quite a high airspeed, and possibly while unstable.

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>Is a reserve expected to open hard?

Yes, they open considerably harder than modern mains to reduce time it takes to open (important when you are low.)

> Do you expect injuries?

In some cases, yes. If you have a heavy camera helmet, and you need to use your reserve at terminal, the odds of a neck injury are noticeable.

>Can hard openings (main) be prevented with the right canopy, lines, and pack job?

Not completely, no.

>Would a static line jump help avoid a hard opening, since you're going slower?

Again, not completely. It depends on a great many factors, but sometimes they all stack up against you.

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15 years ago I had a 4 lower lumbar fusion and carry two 9 inch rods and 6 of the largest screws they put in humans...I've never been injured Skydiving and have 35 years in the sport.

That being said, I had 1500 jumps before the fusion and I fully understood the ramifications of a hard opening, or worse a bad landing. I do everything I possibly can to mitigate the possibilities of either but I always keep in mind it's an odds game I'm playing.

I jump a relatively large main with a pocket slider and an even larger reserve. I always pack for myself because I have the experience to know how to slow down the openings consistently. I don't jump in marginal wind conditions and plan my landings (as much as possible) prior to boarding the aircraft.

Because I have this 'weak link', I have to keep myself in fairly good physical condition. My flexibility and core strength are things I work on every day and are probably well above most other jumpers my age.

~It IS possible for ME to skydive with spinal fusion, but as illustrated...I kinda knew what I was getting into before jumping with it.

You are at a disadvantage not having the prior experience to make a judgement call regarding what can & will happen to your body during the course of a Skydive.

No one including you can really judge if you can deal with the physical demands of the sport.

There ARE some things you can do to lower the odds of an injury...you have to ask yourself IF you are willing to do those things above & beyond what most of your peers do. . .
and still have the somewhat higher possibility of ending up paralyzed or dead, even if things generally go right.

It's a tough decision and one that could very well effect the rest of your life...think it through! ;)










~ If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn? ~

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I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Did his cervical fusion contribute to being paralyzed on the hard opening?

Is a reserve expected to open hard?



It's supposed to open fast so you don't die when using it at a low altitude.

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Do you expect injuries?



No.

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Can hard openings (main) be prevented with the right canopy, lines, and pack job?



No. Sometimes parachutes open hard. You put a few hundred square feet of fabric in 100+ MPH wind and things happen.

Some canopies normally open harder than others, but it's not the normal openings you're worried about.

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Would a static line jump help avoid a hard opening, since you're going slower?



Probably but you still have landings to deal with.

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15 years ago I had a 4 lower lumbar fusion and carry two 9 inch rods and 6 of the largest screws they put in humans...I've never been injured Skydiving and have 35 years in the sport.



I read some of your posts about that in other threads. Surely you've experienced a hard opening in the years after the fusion?

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~It IS possible for ME to skydive with spinal fusion, but as illustrated...I kinda knew what I was getting into before jumping with it.

You are at a disadvantage not having the prior experience to make a judgement call regarding what can & will happen to your body during the course of a Skydive.

No one including you can really judge if you can deal with the physical demands of the sport.

There ARE some things you can do to lower the odds of an injury...you have to ask yourself IF you are willing to do those things above & beyond what most of your peers do. . .
and still have the somewhat higher possibility of ending up paralyzed or dead, even if things generally go right.

It's a tough decision and one that could very well effect the rest of your life...think it through! ;)



If I love my test tandem jump like I think I will, then I will go to any length to do it as safely as I can and progress in the sport. I'm still playing to odds, but so is everybody. If a hard opening can paralyze a completely healthy person, like I read about elsewhere... everybody faces that risk.

You're right, my disadvantage is not knowing what these forces are like and whether I can take it. I watched the video someone posted of his hard opening. To this total newcomer, it doesn't look as violent as he describes it.

In the years since surgery I've been very active and never felt fragile, like there was something I shouldn't do because of my back.

It's a lot to think about.

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You're right, my disadvantage is not knowing what these forces are like and whether I can take it. I watched the video someone posted of his hard opening. To this total newcomer, it doesn't look as violent as he describes it.


I have no good medical information regarding what the heightened risks are for you. But (while I don't have video), I did want to mention that over a year ago, I had a hard enough opening to compress a vertebra. Prior to that incident, I had no known spinal injuries. So hard openings are definitely nothing to sneeze at.

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I saw my orthopedic surgeon today, from the same team that did my fusion. He took some x-rays and checked me out and I told him my plans.

I was expecting a no, hoping for a cautious maybe. What I got was a resounding yes! He said go for it! And go ahead and play tackle football if you like that, too!

He thinks that the main concern I should have from subjecting my body to these forces is not a slightly increased risk of traumatic neurological damage, but a slightly increased risk of degenerative disc disease in the area below the fusion.

But... not only will we all face this problem in old age, fused or not, I already face a higher risk of getting it sooner because of my fusion whether I'm active or not. So I could baby my back for 20 years and still end up with problems. Obviously, it's not worth it.

For any spinal fusion patients who read this in the future, I am fused from L3 to T4 and I have instrumentation going almost the full length of my spine. My surgeon used a surprisingly small number of pedicle screws and hooks to attach my spine to the rods. I hear that these days they tend to use the screws more.

See you in the sky!

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I am fused C4-7. First round in 12/03 replaced & fused C-5&6 & then had to revisit and fuse the levels above and below 1/10 after continuing to jump post-op. I love skydiving, I can't imagine my life without it but I've slowed WAY down and given up my favorite thing to do in skydiving (4-way training) as a result. My hands go numb & my shoulders & neck hurt like a mutha after 5 or 6 jumps & I pay for it the next day. I have about 2000 jumps since 1999 with over 4 years off for pre-op good behavior & post-op recoveries. I won't lie - it fucking sucks. All the damn time. Buuuut, I won't give it up because I know what air time does for me.

All that said, you have no experience in the air. You don't know what it will do to your body. I know what it will do & has done to mine so I can assess my risks. I'm a rigger & instructor so I've rearranged my gear & who I jump with to minimize as much damage to myself as I can. However, I do know that the next jump could bite me permanently. Are you prepared for that?? I go back and forth DAILY.

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I have a 5-level spinal fusion.. L1-L5 due to a hard landing after a botched swoop.. crushed L3 & L4 and lucky to be walking. Im in great physical shape, have very high core strength, and manage to get along pretty well in life and mostly without pain from my injuries.
I miss the fuck out of skydiving and think about going back up every day (despite making about 20 jumps post-injury).
The bottom line is that this is an unpredictable sport and you can go a long way to mitigate your risk but you can never rule out the occasional hard-opening/bad landing/major incident. The fact is that a spinal fusion turns incidents that you would other wise walk away from or not even think twice about into ones that have you limping around in pain for weeks or fuck you up permanently. I remember several landings on windy days that did not go very well.. everyone had a good laugh, hopefully someone got it on video and that was that. If I were to make such a landing now, it would put me out of commission for some time.
As mentioned, mitigating the risks by not jumping in marginal winds etc makes skydiving more feasible for people in our situation but the room for error becomes significantly reduced with each fused vertebrae.
Personally, I know that if a jump leaves me in chronic pain or even noticeably disabled for the rest of my life, I will regret the shit out of my decision to jump, and the keeps me grounded.. literally. :-/

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