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kat1984

Returning to skydiving after accident

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I'm a low level ~100 jumps skydiver who had an accident over a year ago and fractured three lumbar verterbrae. I've been given the all clear by my Doctor and want to return to skydiving but I'm understandably terrified. My accident was caused by a mistimed (ie.late) flare. I had been feeling insecure on my canopy since I bought it several weeks before and felt I was getting no effect from the brakes so had been taking a wrap on them, I've since learnt that my breaks were too short as opposed to too long, hence why I was getting no flare but I was too scared to ask for help. Obviously I won't be making that mistake again, I'm planning to return on a bigger canopy and take instruction from a canopy coach and ask for assistance or radio instruction during my first few jumps back. I also plan to concentrate solely on canopy work at first before I return to FS but I'm just wondering if there is anything else I can do to help protect myself from a repeat injury? Is there a form of back protector I can wear to minimise the risk or anything else anyone can suggest?
Any information or advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Perhaps try a tandem jump first. Go with an experienced instructor who understands how to teach canopy control and make the tandem jump about that alone. You could add some freefall fun (spins and such) just to get smiling again if you so choose, but really focus on parachute skills. Especially work on team landing skills.

My hunch is that your fractured lumbar vertebrae were compressions from landing on your butt. That's the most common mechanism of injury that will fracture the lumbar spine, and is usually the result of lifting you legs with a straight vertical descent. There are no protective devices that I know of for reducing that kind of injury. Traditional spine protectors will help if you land flat on your back, but they won't do anything for the vertical component of a butt strike.

As you train for your next jump do some extra work on parachute landing falls (PFL's). And then prepare to use this skill on every jump to roll off any extra speed, rather than lifting your legs as you may have been trained to do on your first tandems. Our industry has done a real disservice to students by minimizing PLF training. It's a skill that we should all be prepared to use on every jump, and a skill that can save us even when we have thousands of jumps.

Welcome back to the sport!
Tom Buchanan
Instructor Emeritus
Comm Pilot MSEL,G
Author: JUMP! Skydiving Made Fun and Easy

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Whenever I struggle with confidence, my performance is low.

I believe you will have to work on your confidence level regarding the canopy skills. Both the deserved confidence because you practiced and got coaching and have real world evidence you can land safely... And the "fake confidence" that comes from your belief that you can do something and be successful, when you don't quite have proof YET that you can...

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I also had a back injury when I had under 100 jumps. I fractured thorasic vertebrae on a hard opening due to the fact that I didn't slow down out of a sit. I was out of the sport for 3 months (that was the longest the Dr could possibly talk me into staying on the ground) and also very nervous going back.
I only have 165 jumps now so obviously take a instructors advice over mine, but I would recommend starting slow. I did hop n pops the first few times out to regain some confidence. And one thing I have learned myself and by watching other students...There is no shame in being on radio until you are comfortable and consistent. I have seen people refuse the help of having an instructor on a radio and make bad decisions and end up in near collisions or off landings that have resulted in injuries. Better safe than sorry...especially in our sport.
During my injury I wore a custom molded back brace, but it is not something you'd want to skydive in. I don't know of anything that would be all that comfortable.
Just take it slow and go over your flight plan, winds and other landing factors with an instructor before you go up.
Well behaved women don't often make history.

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Thanks for everyone's advice. I had considered a tandem as a way back in but I talked it through with my Instructor and we decided some coaching and a radio would be a better option. I have no issues whatsoever with going back on radio and was planning to just focus on hop and pops and canopy work for now until I get more confident. I hadn't considered working on PLFs but you're spot on about how my accident happened so that's definitely something I'm going to put serious work into. I'm also going to be more picky about the condidtions I jump in, I was injured on a nil winds day so I'll be waiting for some wind before I jump again in the forseeable future.
It's good to know that others in a similar position have come back from an accident and are still enjoying the sport. I've spent a year so far alternating between wanting to jump again and not wanting to jump again and I have considered the fact that skydiving is not for me but the fact is that I enjoy it a lot, its something that gives me a really good feeling about myself and something I want to go back to despite the heightened risk of my injury. If I'd given up every time somebody told me something wasn't for me I'd never have got past my first jump. I've made my mind up to do this, if I decide after a jump or two that I have't got the confidence to continue then at least I can say I've given it a try.

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Kat.....ive been reading this thread , debating whether or not to chime in. Heres my take on it.

I jumped for 27 years. In 96 with 1600+ jumps I broke L1, crushed L2, broke L3. I recovered well with all the associated surgeries.
Now 1300+ jumps later I was forced to retire. The pain issues in my back and the neurological problems affecting my arms became to great to overcome.
As it is now I live on Oxycodone and spinal injections every three months. There are no other options, I did too much damage in the initial accident and according to my Drs , returning to skydiving.
Maybe they were right.

Bottom line is this....I got 12 really great years of skydiving after my accident.....now I am forced to retire from the work world and skydiving.
Would I do it all again......probably. But dont fool yourself......just as I'm paying dues now...you may be someday too.
The nights get awfully long not being able to sleep week after week.
You decide......I did.


bozo
Pain is fleeting. Glory lasts forever. Chicks dig scars.

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I just took a CC course from him this past weekend, and boy did I learn some things. Mostly what I didn't know I didn't know! I have read the Canopy and It's pilot twice since Sunday, and I think I'll keep doing it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I will say that I think it could be a little more illustrative of technique. While it is made abundantly clear that all procedures vary from canopy to canopy, some concrete examples, diagrams or photos would be quite helpful in visualizing the correct mechanism for application of brakes in a turn to flatten it out, for example.

Besides the book being invaluable, learning from Brian Germain is invaluable. Check out his schedule, http://www.bigairsportz.com/schedule.php, if you get a chance to take a course, do so. He is very approachable and knowledgeable.

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