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PARACHUTE – A Christmas “RCT”

December 24, 2018

Written by Clay Smith

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Wearing a parachute vs an empty backpack had no impact on mortality or injury severity in select jumpers from an airplane. Use caution when extrapolating this to higher altitude jumps, i.e. those over 2 feet.

Why does this matter?
Because no one wants to read something serious on Christmas Eve.

Might as well…jump!
This was an imaginary RCT from the BMJ Christmas Edition. I love the British (even though this study was done in the US). Since, “evidence supporting the efficacy of parachutes is weak and guideline recommendations for their use are principally based on biological plausibility and expert opinion,” the authors undertook this rigorous trial. In this supposed study, 23 jumpers were randomized to either jump with a chute or an empty backpack. There was no difference in mortality or injury severity between the two groups. Prior to being enrolled, 93 people were screened. Those ultimately selected for participation jumped from a lower altitude, 0.6m (2 feet), compared to those excluded, who were at an altitude of 9146m (30K feet). They were also traveling much slower, 0 km/h, as opposed to 800km/hr (497mph). See figure.

From cited article

From cited article

What should we conclude from this “study?” It seems there are some lessons. First of all, I know this study was conducted in Massachusetts and Michigan, but doggone it, British people are the best. After all, it was in the British Medical Journal. I mean, would we have figgy pudding without them? Did you know they light this dessert on fire? Next, and more to the point, that is a nice looking biplane! Third, Downton Abbey. Fourth, Brits have the absolute best mysteries…I mean Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shaun Evans, and over 20 seasons of Midsomer Murders! Finally, they are willing to publish an article like this. I feel quite sure there are other real lessons, such as, “Watch out for those exclusion criteria.” and “Don’t just read the abstract.” but I just can’t bring myself to go into that. It’s Christmas break. By the way, for those new to JournalFeed, we usually summarize real articles.

Merry Christmas today to my friends in Australia! And to the rest, for whom it’s still Christmas Eve, I have a special present for you in tomorrow’s email. Do not open until Christmas (or Boxing Day if you’re in Australia)!

Seriously, Happy Holidays to you all! I hope this “RCT” gives you a smile.

Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial. BMJ. 2018 Dec 13;363:k5094. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k5094.

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