If an woman were to vault over a second story balcony and land on someone, what kind of injuries could she expect? What kind of injuries could her victim expect? Would it be possible for her to come out relatively unscathed, if she put thought into the best way to land before she went for the jump?
Hey there! I’m glad you sent this in. Thanks for asking!
Your character has 2 things going for her:
1) She’s not falling from THAT high a height. She could still have significant injuries, but a second-story balcony is only about 12-15 feet off the ground. While that’s triple body height – our threshold for where we suspect serious injuries – it’s also not, say, the 5th floor (which is likely fatal).
But the person she lands on—assuming she plants her feet on their shoulders—actually helps reduce the height of the fall, making it closer to 7-10 feet, which is a much more survivable injury!
2) She’s landing on something soft (compared to concrete). The person may alter the way she lands, but they’ll also slow her down over a longer period of time than simply hitting the pavement.
Remember, it’s not the fall that kills your characters, friends, it’s the sudden stop at the bottom.
As to the specific injury patterns and “safest” way of falling, I’d say she would be best off going feet-first and aiming for the person’s shoulders or back with her feet.
Now, with a straight drop with a landing on the heels, you’d expect to see a very particular pattern of injuries called Don Juan Syndrome. What happens is that the person lands heel-first, and the force just travels directly up from there, breaking calcaneous (heels), knees, pelvis, and spinal compression injuries. DO NOT WANT.
However, if your character has any kind of martial arts training or has taken any parkour at all, she’ll have a better idea how to land: feet parallel, knees relaxed, land on the balls of her feet, allow her hips to tuck behind (rather than hyperflex the knees and push the hips forward).
If she does it right, and she controls not just the first fall (into the person) but the second fall (awkwardly, probably backwards, onto the pavement from the height of that person’s shoulders), she may walk away relatively unscathed, though for realism’s sake I’d appreciate at least a sprained ankle or wrist, or a goose egg on the back of her head.
I’m not a traceur, but this video has a surprisingly good illustration of the body mechanics she wants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31IM_PRHoeg
As for her victim, they’re in for a bad day. That kind of force landing on them, completely unexpected, makes me think of things like broken clavicles and shoulders, plus injuries from getting pushed to the ground, so up to and including broken wrists, broken arms, head strikes (with scrapes / hematomas / …) plus the possibility of a concussion.
Honestly, they could both walk away with concussions. Hooray for concussions!
From a reader’s perspective, I’m really curious as to whether or not she’s aiming for the person or if they just happen to get in her way. If she’s self-centered enough to think “they’ll break my fall”, that’s a really interesting trait for a character to have. If she’s trying to hurt them that’s even more interesting!
Either way, I hope this was useful!!