Aug. 27, 2021 — A milk crate climbing challenge that has had a sudden rise on social media this past week has led to many of its participants taking a hard fall.
The TikTok trend, which involves stacking milk crates in a pyramid-shaped staircase and attempting to climb up one side and down the other, has resulted in countless clips of people tumbling to the ground and injuring themselves in the process as they land on their necks, sides, and backs.
Each crate challenge video is a potential orthopedic injury, says George Gantsoudes, MD, a pediatric orthopedist at Pediatrics Specialists of Virginia. These tumbles could potentially result in fractures of the pelvis, collarbone, and legs, as well as ligament injuries in the ankle and knee. Paralysis and joint and shoulder dislocations are also possible.
“I understand that people need to find ways to entertain themselves, but we would definitely appreciate it if people found ways that weren’t risking life and limb,” says Gantsoudes, who hasn’t had a pediatric patient injured from the crate challenge yet. “Falling from height is never a good thing. Gravity always wins.”
These nasty falls, which have garnered millions of views across social media platforms, have prompted the FDA and doctors to issue warnings against the viral fad.
One woman in Dallas was injured after falling onto concrete from a stack of milk crates outside a gas station. She is believed to have hit her head during the fall, and footage posted online shows paramedics coming to her aid.
Also, with many pediatric hospitals being swamped with young COVID-19 patients, some of these crate challenge injuries may not be addressed right away. Gantsoudes says that if a child got a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) as a result of doing the milk crate challenge and went to a hospital overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, it may not be considered an urgent surgery.
“The first COVID-19 shutdown we had last spring, [children with ACL tears] had to wait 2 to 3 months to get fixed,” he said.
The viral fad joins a long list of social media challenges that have gone viral and has had potentially dangerous outcomes. The so-called Tide Pod challenge — where people actually ate laundry detergent pods — resulted in a spike in poison control calls in 2018, while children who attempted the cinnamon challenge — where, you guessed it, people ate large amounts of the spice — in 2012 put themselves at risk for serious lung injury.
“I understand younger people push the limits of safety for entertainment, but I would say that any parent who knows that their child is doing this should make sure their child doesn’t engage in this type of risky activity,” Gantsoudes says.
In fact, tumbling down a milk crate tower may be worse than falling from a ladder, Shawn Anthony, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told The Washington Post.
“It’s very difficult to brace yourself from the falls I’ve seen in these videos. They’re putting their joints at an even higher risk for injury,” he said.