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Why doctors are issuing warnings over viral Milk Crate Challenge

Hospitals reporting fractured ribs and broken bones as result of dangerous TikTok dare

Social media challenges are known for being bizarre, from the Planking Challenge where participants lie face-down in a busy or unusual area, to the Mannequin Challenge, where a group of people pose frozen like statues as a camera moves between them. But the latest challenge to go viral on social media is not just bizarre – it’s dangerous, say doctors.

The Milk Crate Challenge started life on TikTok, with its origin thought to be a June 2011 video entitled “Guy Falls Off 6 Milk Crates”, the Washington Post reported. In this challenge, participants “take on a set of milk crates precariously stacked in the shape of a pyramid, attempt to climb to the top and then back down again without toppling over”, said The Guardian.

Videos of people attempting the Milk Crate Challenge – often with what the Washington Post described as “catastrophic results” – have been watched and shared by millions across various social media platforms. “It’s the biggest thing that’s going on in every neighbourhood right now,” a New York State resident told the same paper. “You go to any park or public place right now and you’ll see crates there.”

But as more and more people attempt the challenge, resulting trips to the emergency room have unsurprisingly become more frequent. Health facilities around the US have reported seeing increasing numbers of people with serious injuries related to the challenge, including two patients in Atlanta who had broken bones and one in New Jersey who had suffered several fractured ribs after falling off the crates, People magazine reported. 

Now doctors and health officials are urging people to stop taking part in such challenges, where the most dangerous attempts are rewarded with the most “likes”, views and shares. “Everyone needs to do their part in supporting first responders and health-care providers”, a New York-based orthopaedic surgeon told the Washington Post. “That involves not partaking in challenges [which put] additional strain on the system”.

And on Monday, the Baltimore City Health Department tweeted: “With Covid-19 hospitalizations rising around the country, please check with your local hospital to see if they have a bed available for you, before attempting the #milkcratechallenge.”

The Milk Crate Challenge follows in the footsteps of similarly risky dares including the Blackout Challenge, “where young people are encouraged to hold their breath until they pass out”, and the Benadryl Challenge, “where young people intentionally consume large amounts of the antihistamine to induce hallucinations”, said The Guardian. 

In a statement released to People on Wednesday, a TikTok spokesperson said that the app “prohibits content that promotes or glorifies dangerous acts” and that such videos are removed, with searches redirected to the platform’s community guidelines. “We encourage everyone to exercise caution in their behaviour whether online or off,” the statement added.

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