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Homework Help: Falling from a Building

  1. Sep 10, 2007 #1
    I am unsure if this is the correct place to post. I apologize if it is not. This is not a homework question, but a question I have in general. I have tried searching for it on the web with no luck.

    I remember learning in high school that when falling from a building, the fall many times is what kills the person. I cannot remember why and I am having a dispute with a friend regarding this. I understand there is a difference between falling and someone who chooses to jump. From what I read it seems when falling a person is not relaxed and there is greater stress. Am I anywhere close to being correct? Or should I concede defeat and admit that simply falling will not kill someone?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2007 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to the PF, RilesKR. It's a great place for learning.

    Well, technically, it is the sudden stop at the end of the fall or jump that hurts or kills a person, not the fall itself. Skydivers jump all the time, but they have the parachute to soften the landing.

    I think you are asking something about an on-purpose jump versus a fall, and the only difference I see is that with a fall, you have little control over how you land, so it's more likely that you will land on your head and break your neck. If you have control over your body position, and the height is not too great, you can land on your feet, putting mainly your legs and lower body at risk. But that is only a help up to a point -- from heights greater than a few meters, you are going to get badly hurt or killed no matter what.

    Does that make sense?
  4. Sep 10, 2007 #3


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    Staff Emeritus
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    A fall from a building will not necessarily cause death, but most often does if it's more than 20 feet or so. It depends on how one hits the ground.

    Falling on one's head will cause brain damage by the impact or will result in one breaking the neck.

    Falling feet first could result in broken feet, legs and pelvis, and perhaps arm(s) and back (rupture disc), but one could conceivably survive.

    An impact of the body with something massive usually results in blunt force trauma to the soft tissue, i.e. organs and the circulatory system. Rupture of the aorta or major artery is usually fatal.

    There have been cases of skydivers hitting the ground and surviving, but they require a huge amount of surgery and hospital time. It is also rare to survive.

    I've hit the ground twice feet first after falling off a roof (from about 15 feet). It felt like a sledgehammer hitting one in the rear with the shock traveling up the spine and into the cranial cavity. Very unpleasant and painful.

    I also fell sideways out of tree (from about 10 ft) and fortunately prevented a head first collision with the ground. Again it was very painful and I could certainly feel my lungs and internal organs trying to pull away from the chest and abdominal cavities. I was able to walk (actually crawl) away from that. I hope I don't repeat that experience.
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