Background: The objective of this study was to define the casualty rates and anatomical distribution of injuries associated with military static line parachute (MSLP) descents conducted by an Australian Army Commando Battalion. This study was conducted to identify the strategies to reduce the injury burden related to MSLP activities.
Method: A retrospective audit of injuries resulting from MSLP descents conducted by 4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR) over a 13-month period.
Results: A total of 554 MSLP descents over the time period were reviewed. The overall casualty rate was 5.1%. For MSLP descents onto land drop zones, the incidence of injury requiring hospital admission was 2.6%. Paratrooper bodyweight was associated with increased risk of injury (P = 0.04) and hospital admission (P = 0.003), particularly when conducting descents onto land drop zones. MSLP descents conducted onto land were associated with a higher incidence of casualties when compared with those conducted into water drop zones (P = 0.001).
Conclusion: During the period from February 2004 until February 2005, 4 RAR (Commando) experienced higher casualty rates during MSLP descents than expected when compared with the published report. Strategies to decrease the casualty rate of MSLP descents onto land drop zones may include more extensive ground training, increased frequency of MSLP descents, use of ankle braces and the development of purpose built drop zones. Consideration should be given to establishing a maximum bodyweight threshold for the conduct of MSLP activities or acquiring parachutes with decreased descent velocity for larger paratroopers.