Paragliding accidents with spinal cord injury: 10 years' experience at a single institution

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 May 1;31(10):1125-30. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000216502.39386.70.


Study design: A retrospective analysis of 41 patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) after paragliding accidents.

Objective: To determine the lesioned pattern and prognostic radiologic factors for rehabilitation potential.

Summary of background data: Paragliding accidents with SCI present a new injury pattern, dealt with in the current literature from a purely orthopedic, sports medicine, or insurance point of view. Few combinations of orthopedic and neurologic data are available.

Methods: Over a 10-year period, the case records of 41 patients with SCI caused by paragliding accidents were analyzed with regard to vertebral and other skeletal fractures, neurologic recovery (American Spine Injury Association score), and professional reintegration.

Results: Vertebral fractures peaked in the thoracolumbar region, with L1 most frequently (30%) affected. The levels of vertebral lesion and neurologic deficit differed in 32% of patients. Combination with lower-limb fractures was characteristic for paragliding SCI (P < 0.001); 93% of patients with initial bony occlusion of the spinal canal of <70% left the clinic ambulatory.

Conclusion: Paragliding accidents with SCI show a characteristic injury pattern associated with a high recovery potential if the initial bony spinal canal occlusion is <70%. Half the patients will reintegrate in their former profession and place of employment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Athletic Injuries* / complications
  • Athletic Injuries* / physiopathology
  • Athletic Injuries* / rehabilitation
  • Aviation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraplegia / etiology
  • Paraplegia / physiopathology
  • Prognosis
  • Recovery of Function
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Compression / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Compression / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / rehabilitation
  • Spinal Stenosis / etiology
  • Spinal Stenosis / physiopathology
  • Switzerland
  • Thoracic Vertebrae