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The Epidemiology of Severe and Catastrophic Injuries in BASE Jumping

Mei-Dan, Omer MD*; Carmont, Michael R. MBBS; Monasterio, Erik MBChB

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: May 2012 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 262–267
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31824bd53a
Original Research

Objective: To report the demographic characteristics, injury rate, severity, and morbidity in BASE jumping.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: BASE jumping group meetings from 2006 to 2010.

Participants: Heterogenic group of 102 International BASE jumpers.

Assessment of Risk Factors: Injuries reported as function of jumps made, jumping days, age, experience, and sex.

Main Outcome Measures: Incidence, severity, and type of injuries.

Results: Responses from 68 subjects were available for analysis. The median number of jumps was estimated at 286 per respondent. The median time respondents had participated in BASE jumping was 5.8 years. There were 39 reported severe injuries sustained by 29 different jumpers. Nineteen thousand four hundred ninety-seven jumps were reported, resulting in 2 severe injuries per 1000 jumps (0.2% severe injury rate) or 2.6 severe injuries per 1000 jumping days. Forty-nine respondents (72%) had witnessed the death or serious injury of other participants in the sport. Twenty-four accidents (61%) involved the lower limbs, 8 (20%) the back/spine, 7 (18%) the chest wall, and 5 (13%) were a head injury. The mean Abbreviated Injury Score was 3.2 (range, 2-5). Fifteen (52%) of the 29 injured jumpers required 20 acute surgical interventions, which were mostly orthopedic related. There was a significant correlation between number of jumps made and injuries sustained (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: BASE jumpers have an average of 1 severe injury for every 500 jumps. Most active BASE jumpers have witnessed death or severe injury of a participant and have experienced a “close call” incident.

*University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Orthopaedics Division of Sports Medicine, Aurora, Colorado

Princess Royal Hospital, Telford, United Kingdom

Forensic Psychiatry Service, Hillmorton Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Corresponding Author: Omer Mei-Dan, MD, Assistant Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Orthopaedics, Division of Sports Medicine, Aurora, CO 80045 (omer@extremegate.com).

No funding was received for this work from any of the following organizations: National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and others.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received July 17, 2011

Accepted January 18, 2012

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.