Friday Freakout: Skydiver Dislocates Shoulder & Can’t Pull Parachute, Lands Reserve One-Handed

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

What happened

This skydiver’s right arm was pulled out of the socket on the exit, leaving him with a dislocated shoulder for the entire jump and unable to pull his main canopy. Shortly after the exit, he realized he was in trouble and didn’t want to endanger his fellow jumpers, so he tracked away to pull high. At around 7,000 feet, he attempted to pull his main but couldn’t reach his BOC to deploy the pilot chute – attempting to do so flipped him over – and ultimately he decided to “just cut, and pull reserve.” Once his reserve deployed he still couldn’t use his right arm, so he unstowed the left toggle and held it in his teeth, then unstowed the right toggle and steered the canopy one-handed. A combination of subtle inputs and (we’re assuming) harness turns get him turned into the wind and he then attempts to modify a PLF in order to avoid hitting his right shoulder. Bravo to this jumper for managing to keep his cool and handle the situation calmly.

Why did it happen

Exit Count

The official word from the jumper was that “my buddy and I drop at different angles and he pulls my right shoulder out of socket,” but we think that the issue was probably due to a mistimed exit count. It looks like the one jumper leaves a half second earlier than the other and, combined with those angles, it may have been the reason for that shoulder getting yanked out of place.

How could it be prevented

Practice Your Exit

Practicing your exit (and your whole jump) on the ground is a key part to a successful skydive. Rehearsing what you’re going to be doing is going to set you up for success in the air. We don’t know if that was a factor here but a lot of the time we see jumpers rushing to catch a load and discussing their exit and their dive in the plane. That’s not a good practice and it can result in potentially dangerous situations when there is a breakdown in communication.

Additional Notes

Grace Under Pressure

This guy deserves a round of applause for staying cool and calm when he was stressed and probably in a ton of pain. Most people would have been panicking but he had the wherewithal to track away from his buddies, realize he needed to go to his reserve, and figure out how to control his canopy using one arm. Seriously man, bravo. You had a bad day and you did everything right to keep it from getting worse.

Cutting Away?

We already noted that this jumper was in a crazy situation and did an amazing job of coping with it. One item that can be debated, however, is the decision to cutaway and then pull reserve. In this situation there is arguably no reason to cutaway first. Really, it just added an extra step and an extra item to worry about because he held onto the cutaway handle. That being said, there are many jumpers who argue that it’s better to just have one set of Emergency Procedures and that they will always cutaway before pulling their reserve.

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