Objectives: To show trends in paragliding injuries and derive recommendations for safety precautions for paraglider pilots on the basis of accident statistics, interviews, questionnaires, medical reports, and current stage of development of paragliding equipment.
Methods: All paragliding accidents in Germany have to be reported. Information on 409 accidents was collected and analysed for the period 1997-1999.
Results: There was a substantial decrease in reported accidents (166 in 1997; 127 in 1998; 116 in 1999). The number of accidents resulting in spinal injuries was 62 in 1997, 42 in 1998, and 38 in 1999. The most common cause of accident was deflation of the glider (32.5%), followed by oversteering (13.9%), collision with obstacles (12.0%), take off errors (10.3%), landing errors (13.7%), misjudgment of weather conditions (4.9%), unsatisfactory preflight checks (4.9%), mid-air collisions with other flyers (2.2%), accidents during winching (2.2%), and defective equipment (0.5%). Accidents predominantly occurred in mountain areas. Fewer than 100 flights had been logged for 40% of injured pilots. In a total of 39 accidents in which emergency parachutes were used, 10 pilots were seriously injured (26%) and an additional three were killed (8%).
Conclusions: Injuries in paragliding caused by unpredictable situations can be minimised by (a) using safer gliders in the beginner or intermediate category, (b) improving protection systems, such as padded back protection, and (c) improving pilot skills through performance and safety training.