WHEN SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT...

Here's How Dangerous the Milk Crate Challenge Can Be

Aug. 26, 2021 - Katie McCallum

Imagine assembling 36 milk crates into a pyramid and attempting to walk up and down the stack without falling.

If you're on social media, you don't actually need to use your imagination. Called the "Milk Crate Challenge," trying to traverse these anything-but-sturdy towers has become a new viral trend — with video after video after video landing in our feeds.

Most social platforms are already trying to limit the viewership of this content. Why? Because the falls that occur — which, by the way, are way more frequent than the successes — can be straight up tough to watch.

"Most people who try this challenge likely go into it thinking they're going to be the one who actually completes it, rather than thinking about the more likely result — a fall with a very high potential for bodily injury," says Dr. Scott Rand, sports medicine doctor at Houston Methodist.

While Dr. Rand can't answer why people are even considering it, he can explain why the milk crate challenge is an incredibly dangerous thing to try.

Just how dangerous is the milk crate challenge? Very.

If you've watched a video of the challenge, you've seen the milk crates start to wobble uncontrollably by even just the third step. You've likely also seen the tower collapse underneath the person, resulting in a fall that leaves you questioning: Are they even okay???

"A single milk crate is about 12 inches tall, so the peak of a 6-crate pyramid puts a person about 6 feet off the ground. Falling from height is always dangerous. Falling from height in an awkward manner and with the added risk of landing on the milk crates that collapsed with you can be a recipe for disaster," warns Dr. Rand. "There's essentially no chance for you to brace for your fall whatsoever."

He says that the potential injuries the milk crate challenge can lead to include:

  • Traumatic bone breaks, including broken wrists, forearms, collar bones and more
  • Concussions
  • Spine injuries
  • Soft tissue injuries, such as lacerations requiring sutures, deep muscle bruises and strained (or even torn) ligaments

"In reality, a fall like that can result in any number of injuries — ranging from mild to serious to severe. And some of the potential injuries aren't just acute issues you heal from and move on. Some could affect your body for years to come," says Dr. Rand.

Not to mention that many of these injuries require treatment in the ER (a pretty busy place right now during the Delta surge) and even surgical intervention.

While it's not quite clear just how many ER visits the milk crate challenge has resulted in yet, Dr. Rand points to a close comparison.

"Falling from a milk crate pyramid is probably as bad as (or worse than) falling off a ladder, and, historically, about 80% of fall injuries treated in the ER involve a ladder," Dr. Rand warns.

The bottom line?

"Just don't do the milk crate challenge. Don't even consider it. If not for yourself and your own safety, think of the ER nurses and doctors. These are people who are already working very hard to provide care to people with COVID-19 and unavoidable health issues. Falling off a bunch of stacked up milk crates is an entirely preventable reason to end up in an already busy ER," adds Dr. Rand. "There is no glory in a 'hold my beer and watch this' stunt as silly as this one."

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