Skydiving with a Disability & Other Medical Conditions: Quick How-To Guide

Skydiving with a Disability & Other Medical Conditions: Quick How-To Guide

One of the reasons why skydiving is such an awesome extreme sport is because pretty much anyone can participate.

Literally, most people who are older than the legal age limit can skydive as much as they want. And when I say skydive, I don’t mean tandem diving. I’m talking about your good ol’ run-of-the-mill, let’s go inside an airplane, wait for it to go thousands of feet above the ground, and then just jump off like you’re in a James Bond movie.

Yes. It’s quite accessible, but it’s also called an extreme sport for a good reason. So, it does have some participation limitations, however niche they may be.

This begs many questions – can you skydive with a disability? What are those few “extreme” cases when you can’t? Don’t worry, I’ll answer all of your questions and then some.

Oh, and just a little disclaimer. I’m a professional skydiver with six years’ of experience. Most of what I’ll share today is based on facts and the rest on my hands-on experience. But, of course, don’t try to dive without consulting your general physician first!

Now let’s get to it.

Can you skydive with a disability?

You can skydive in most cases, even with a disability or a health condition. Amputees, people who are completely or partially paralyzed, such as paraplegics and quadriplegics, people who are partially or wholly deaf / blind – all of them can and do a skydive, both solo and in-group.

In short, the “gift of flight” is available to most with minimal restrictions. While some people with severe conditions can’t dive solo, chances are good that they’ll be allowed to skydive in a group or try tandem skydiving.

If you’re paraplegic or quadriplegic:

As long as you have doctor’s approval, paraplegics and quadriplegics can do tandem skydiving to their heart’s content. Though not so much that it hurts your bones, of course.

More importantly, after enough practice and flawless dives, you can even take tests for solo skydiving certifications.

Just check this out:

First ever paraplegic wheelchair skydive

The only issue is finding the right dropzone. Because not many facilities offer tandem or solo skydiving opportunities for paraplegics and quadriplegics in the US. It’s not prejudiced.

Honestly, they just don’t have the right equipment, and it’s better to not do it than to do it without 100% safety.

If you’re blind or deaf:

People who are either blind or deaf have fewer “rules” than one would imagine. There are absolutely no special conditions or restrictions as long as the supervisor or tandem instructor can communicate with you.

Though you can’t get a pass / certificate for solo skydiving if you’re blind for obvious reasons.

1. Famous Disabled Skydivers

The skydiving community is filled with examples of disabled skydivers because it really isn’t that big of a deal. Here are just a couple of success stories:

Lukasz Kufta from Poland is 30+ years old with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), and he probably skydives better than me. His famous jump in 2015 had a 50-second freefall time, meaning that his altitude was well over 12,000 ft, and that’s amazing.

Here’s a video of another skydiver, Todd, a paraplegic:

Ps…you just need to find the height (or altitude) that you’re safe to skydive at. You can get that information from your doctor.

2. How long does a skydive last?

Do you wanna know why some patients are allowed to dive up to a certain height? Because it directly affects the duration of your flight.

The skydive itself will take about 5 to 10 minutes, with freefall taking approximately 30, 60, and 90 seconds for up to 9,000ft, 15,000ft, and 18,000ft, respectively. Although, the entire skydiving session can take up to 2 to 3 hours from when you reach the starting point.

Quick breakdown: On average, safety training will take about 30 minutes to an hour. Ground preparation and ascension would take 30 minutes or so as well. And finally, the flight and freefall that I mentioned earlier. You can check the time taken in detail here.

Now, you can simply ask your general physician to tell you the height or flight time you can skydive at without stressing your mind and body.

Can you skydive with medical conditions?

Most medical conditions, including heart, blood pressure, and back problems, will not stop you from skydiving. People with such issues skydive all the time unless your case, in particular, is very severe.

Simply put, there are no absolutes. 

Soaring Over Dubai With a Paralyzed Skydiver

1. What medical conditions stop you from skydiving?

Technically, not a lot of “medical conditions” can stop you from skydiving. But there’s a small caveat – most of them do have the potential to do so if things get severe. Your equipment needs to be considered as well.

The upper limits of your equipment and body set by the government for safety reasons can and most certainly will stop you from skydiving even at the slightest discrepancy. This is because even a tiny error at thousands of feet above ground can quickly become deadly.

As you know, the minimum age for tandem is 15 and solo skydiving is 18. While there are various rules for the height-to-weight ratio, you’re not allowed to skydive (at least with standard equipment) if you weigh over 225lbs when fully equipped (including shoes).

2. Can you go skydiving with heart and blood pressure conditions?

While blood pressure is not a big issue, as long as your general physician says OK, people with severe heart conditions will face some issues.

You can skydive with heart or blood pressure conditions since it’s an endearing sport that everyone must experience. Though you might need to skip or take extra precautions if your heart condition is severe, especially if you’ve fainted or had an attack before.

This is because even too much excitement is not ideal for heart patients. The best example off the top of my head is the 70-year old restaurant owner Josephine. She had a cardiac arrest out of sheer excitement when former President Barack Obama randomly visited her diner. Ironical, but true.

I have a separate article on skydiving if you’re afraid of heights or get anxious, which is very important, especially if you’re a heart / BP patient as well.

3. Is skydiving bad for patients with back problems?

People with severe back problems will have some problems getting their bodies ready to skydive. Floating and flying may sound easy, but they are really intense, which can further hurt your back.

Keep in mind that the idea behind this and people with heart issues is precisely the same. You guys don’t necessarily need to be Olympic-level athletes or even the best guy in gym class to skydive.

You just need to be healthy in general to enjoy some intense workout without fainting or hurting yourself.

What kind of medical certificate do you need to skydive?

You don’t necessarily need a medical certificate for skydiving. If you have a prevailing health condition such as heart or blood pressure problems, you’re required to produce a medical clearance certificate from a certified physician. It should be less than six months old.

You’ll also have to skydive under supervision regardless of whether you have a medical condition or not. This is because only an individual with an appropriate skydiving license can skydive solo without supervision. Here are the levels for your license according to United States Parachute Association (USPA):

Skydiving License LevelMinimum JumpsMinimum Freefall (mins)
Skydiving A License25
Skydiving B License5030
Skydiving C License20060
Skydiving D License500180

If you’re still confused about the medical certificates, you can check the Skydiver’s Information Manual on the USPA website.

And if you’re not, then go ahead and book your next skydiving adventure. Cheers!

Jonathan Spaeth

I got into extreme sports about 20 years ago and am a die-hard adrenaline junkie. Just like in business, I choose my outdoor adventures based on how much they scare me. My goal is to share the lessons I've learned over the past couple of decades braving the unknown to encourage you to do the same.