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September 23, 1988

It's Hardly Sport, but Parachuting Fire Fighters May Benefit From What Sports Medicine Has Learned

JAMA. 1988;260(12):1672-1675. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410120020005

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WILDFIRES around Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere in the Northwest have kept forest fire fighters in the headlines for weeks.

Among persons in this unique line of work, smokejumpers—the commandos of fire fighting—do the same dangerous work as all fire fighters, but add to the risks by going to work in a parachute. Efforts to reduce these risks have become the focus of some sports medicine physicians.

The US Forest Service created smokejumper units some years ago in the hope of reducing destruction from out-of-control forest fires by having a mobile force that could drop into a fire zone and be working on containment long before conventional fire fighters could reach the area. That philosophy once again was tested with the summer and fall already having been preceded by a lengthy drought in many areas (Wall Street Journal 1988;69:1, July 29). And, there is the recent memory of the 1987