Parachutes are used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag. It is considered as a safety device that acts as a life preserver to a seaman.
But a new study published in the journal The BMJ’s Christmas issue suggests that parachute use did not significantly reduce death or major injury.
For the study, the researchers involved 92 aircraft passengers aged 18 and over were screened for participation. They tested the effectiveness of parachutes on 23 people falling out of airplanes. They equipped half of the participants with parachutes and had the other half jump out of the planes with empty North Face backpacks strapped to their backs.
They found that the parachutes made no difference in whether the participants in the study lived or died.
The study did not find any statistically significant difference in the outcome between the treatment and control arms.
Scientists noted, “The parachute trial satirically highlights some of the limitations of randomized controlled trials, in which participants are randomly assigned to the treatment or control group in order to reduce bias. Nevertheless, we believe that such trials remain the gold standard for the evaluation of most new treatments. The parachute trial does suggest, however, that their accurate interpretation requires more than a cursory reading of the abstract.”
The study also suggests that clinical trials evaluating old, established treatments should make sure to study the people who most need the treatment. Slapping the treatment on the back of someone who doesn’t really need it doesn’t tell you much about whether it works.
Parachute use compared with a backpack control did not reduce death or major traumatic injury. The authors say that this largely resulted from their ability to only recruit participants jumping from stationary aircraft on the ground #XmasBMJ @rwyeh https://t.co/CUZSqrW28n pic.twitter.com/G9jsNuxXIu
— The BMJ (@bmj_latest) December 14, 2018