Ever stood on top of a precarious ladder, and thought about what would happen if you fell? Or, have you looked over the edge of a building, and wondered if you could survive the drop to the ground?

Falling injuries ladder

These questions (sometimes referred to as “the call of the void”) may seem morbid, but they’re a natural part of your brain’s inner workings. Also, knowing the answers can help us better deal with life-and-death survival scenarios when height is involved.

This way, rather than wondering about your chances of surviving a jump,  you can make an educated guess about the falling injuries you might endure if you were forced to jump to survive.

Falling injuries cliff

According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of accidental deaths worldwide, behind road traffic injuries. Falls cause approximately 424,000 deaths each year, but most falls are not fatal.

One of the easiest ways to understand fall risk is to look at LD50, or distance at which you have a 50% chance of fatal injuries. If you fell from 48 feet (about 4 stories), statistically you have about a 50% chance of survival. At 84 feet (or 7 stories), the mortality rate is 90%, meaning you’d be very unlikely to survive a fall from this height.

Falling injuries rooftop

Despite the statistics, it’s still possible to be seriously injured or killed when falling a single story...

From a practical standpoint, it may seem unlikely to survive a four-story fall. However, keep in mind that many other factors contribute to these averages, including: how you land, how hard the surface is, and what protective gear you’re wearing (if any). There are also extreme outliers, such as one man who fell 18,000 feet from a plane without a functional parachute, and survived the landing with only a sprained leg.

So, now you know that you’ll be statistically more likely to survive falls of less than 50 feet. Then again, it’s far from a guarantee, and you should never try it unless every other option is more likely to kill you. Don’t blame us if you jump off a roof and get hurt, because you’re almost guaranteed to get hurt doing so.

Falling injuries skyscraper

What else can you do to reduce your risk if you’re forced to jump or fall from a high place in a survival situation? We’ll leave you with some quick pointers to remember:

  • Be extremely careful on elevated surfaces with slippery conditions (such as water or ice) or with uneven terrain.
  • Take your time and wear proper footwear, so you don’t trip or stumble.
  • If you’re forced to jump from a roof to the ground, hang from the ledge by your hands, then let go. This slightly reduces the distance you have to fall, improving your odds of survival.
  • While falling, try to relax your body, and protect your head and neck with your arms.
  • Try to bend your knees and roll forward or onto your side as you land. This will absorb some of the impact.
  • Avoid falling directly onto your back if possible, as this will reduce the risk of spinal injuries.

For more information about common accidents and injuries, check out our article on mountaineering accident statistics.


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