The Skull-Breaker Challenge: A life-threatening social media trend
The skull-breaker challenge follows in the tradition of dangerous social media trends that spread by participation.
Falling is a serious health hazard. Many lives are lost every year from bad falls and millions are spent on emergency hospital visits. Recovering from a fracture, concussion, muscle tear or sprain takes a long time and the process is riddled with pain. The mighty Humayun, who lost and regained North India in his turbulent life, died when he fell from the stairs of his library (or observatory) at Purana Qila in Delhi.
Why, then, is it considered funny when someone falls and hurts themselves? A bizarre social media trend, called the skull-breaker challenge has gained quite the following on social media app, Tik Tok. The whole point of the ‘challenge’ is to deceive a friend into a seemingly innocent situation, causing them to have a violent fall when their guard is down by kicking them, and filming the humiliation and pain for the world to see. This is apparently done for humorous purposes - the slapstick comedic gold of someone falling on their butt and hurting themselves is supposed to be the big draw.
The skull-breaker challenge follows in the tradition of dangerous social media trends that spread by participation - the KiKi challenge consisted of people getting out of moving cars and dancing to Drake’s ‘In My Feelings’. Many people ended up getting hit by oncoming cars and suffered serious injuries and even death. Police forces from all over the world urged people to not attempt the challenge.
This article looks at the skull-breaker challenge and its effect on health. With some adult communication and guidance this trend, which is popular mostly with teenagers, will hopefully die down soon.
What is the skull-breaker challenge?
Two friends get together and convince a third to stand in between them. They tell the third friend that they will just be jumping in synchronization and recording it. After a hesitant couple of jumps, the wary third person grows more accustomed to the routine and jumps more freely. This is when the first two join forces, stop just before jumping and kick the legs of their friend while they are mid-jump. The friend in the middle loses balance and ends up falling awkwardly on their back, bottom or side. Some even land on their heads which can have dire consequences. Concerningly, a lot of the videos online take place on hard surfaces with children falling badly and appearing to be in pain.
What kind of injuries can be sustained from the challenge?
In such a fall, some might land on their backs and use their arms to brace themselves. If the fall is particularly bad, there can be bruising, lacerations, sprained wrists and ankles, shoulder dislocations and strains. Even worse, the fall can cause traumatic brain injury and spine damage, concussions and long term neurological effects.
The challenge is called ‘skull breaker’ as the objective is to get the person in the middle to do a 180 rotation and have the head and neck bear the brunt of the impact. This is a troubling objective and the participants clearly don't realize the consequences of a nasty fall.
What can be done to prevent this?
A little bit of roughhousing is common in school-going children and young adults. They regularly wrestle in a (mostly) friendly manner, trip, pinch, thwack and play games of catch-me-if-you-can. But a clear line needs to be drawn when the outcome turns dangerous. The skull-breaker operates on the concept of an outsider, the dark humour involved in deception and seeing someone in pain. This sort of behaviour must not be normalized in schools and youth settings because it instils a sense of indifference and validates recording harmful activity and not speaking out against them.
Parents and older siblings must talk to teens about hurting others for the sake of popularity and acceptance. Perhaps one way of doing this is by highlighting the adverse outcomes of the challenge. Further, parents should teach children about the harmful effects of bullying that can last much longer than a fall; often the ones who are targeted for these challenges have a past history of being mocked and bullied.
Social media has a numbing and normalizing effect, especially on the youth. Caretakers and parents must take proactive steps in teaching their children and siblings to use digital platforms reflectively and responsibly.
For more information, read our article on Injuries.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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