Can You Go Skydiving With Epilepsy? | MyEpilepsyTeam

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Can You Go Skydiving With Epilepsy?

Medically reviewed by Federica Polidoro, M.D.
Posted on March 25, 2024

Several members of MyEpilepsyTeam have mentioned skydiving is among their “bucket list” items. But although the thrill of skydiving may tempt you, skydiving isn’t usually recommended for people with epilepsy. “I tried to do a skydive for charity,” said one member. “Epilepsy is in their questionnaire, unfortunately. 😭”

Depending on your seizure triggers and overall health, you may be able to consider certain types of skydiving or alternative activities after taking the right precautions. Ultimately, only you and your neurologist can decide whether skydiving is safe for you. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether to take the plunge.

Dangers of Skydiving With Epilepsy

When it comes to skydiving, many people with epilepsy avoid it at all costs. “I wouldn’t do it. I’ve heard sad stories,” said a MyEpilepsyTeam member. Indeed, there are some scary stories of people having seizures after jumping out of a plane.

In 2015, an Australian man named Christopher Jones had a seizure in midair while skydiving. Fortunately, his instructor managed to grab hold of him and pull the parachute rip cord. The instructor noted that Jones was also wearing two automatic activation devices, so there was little chance of him hitting the ground without a parachute. He still chose to deploy the parachute early as an extra precaution. Jones regained consciousness by the time he reached land. He reported having been seizure-free for four years before the dive.

While everyone came out of that situation unharmed, there are obvious risks when skydiving with epilepsy. Extreme sports like skydiving, hang gliding, and mountain climbing require your full attention, and losing consciousness could lead to dire consequences. These intense activities may trigger seizures if the excitement causes hyperventilating or if you’re sensitive to heights and air pressure changes. Having a seizure during a skydive can put you and your fellow skydivers in a dangerous position, even if it’s been a while since your last seizure.

Several MyEpilepsyTeam members have mentioned concerns about airplanes triggering seizures. “Has anyone had issues in an airplane?” asked one member. Another member responded, “Yes, I found the change in atmosphere pressure triggered a seizure before.” With skydiving, you’ll need to consider not only how the jump will affect you but also the ride up into the sky.

Choosing To Take the Dive

“I went skydiving with a bunch of people who said they were afraid for me, and I shouldn’t go because of the seizures,” said a MyEpilepsyTeam member. “I’m so glad I didn't listen because it was a blast. Some of my plans get pushed back right after seizures, but I still do the thrill-seeking once I’m recovered.”

You should never go skydiving without your doctor’s approval. If your seizures are well-controlled, your doctor may decide it’s safe for you to go. But even if your doctor says it’s OK, you should take certain steps to make skydiving as safe as possible.

One member suggested, “Some skydiving centers will allow tandem skydiving. If you are keen, it might be worth ringing a couple of places in your area to check.”

Tandem skydiving means you’re attached to the instructor. “Depending on your seizures, a friend of mine who has epilepsy went skydiving in tandem (with other people), and she had no problem,” shared another member.

Make sure everyone involved is aware of your seizure disorder and knows what to do if a seizure strikes. Keep your rescue medication handy and accessible if anyone needs to administer it to you. You should never try to hide your health conditions on a medical form, especially when attempting a new activity for the first time. If you feel any signs of a seizure coming on, ride back down in the plane instead of testing your luck with a jump.

Additional Tips To Stay Safe

There’s always a chance the act of skydiving alone will be enough to trigger a seizure. However, it doesn’t hurt to remove other potential triggers.

For example, people with photosensitive epilepsy may choose to wear dark sunglasses when skydiving due to the bright natural light in the open sky. Staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and taking your medication on schedule are also important when preparing for a big event like skydiving.

If you’re not cleared for skydiving, ask your medical professional about different activities you’d like to try. Do your research on ways to modify them to accommodate your medical condition. No matter what, remember to keep safety as your top priority.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEpilepsyTeam is the social network for people with epilepsy and their loved ones. On MyEpilepsyTeam, more than 120,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with epilepsy.

Have you ever considered trying extreme sports like skydiving? If so, would you opt for a tandem jump instead of a solo jump to help reduce your risk of injury? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on March 25, 2024
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    Federica Polidoro, M.D. a graduate of medical school and neurology residency in Italy, furthered her expertise through a research fellowship in multiple sclerosis at Imperial College London. Learn more about her here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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