Doctors across the globe are warning parents about a dangerous new trend taking over social media platform Tik Tok.
The “skull breaker challenge” has soared in popularity in recent months, but medical professionals say there’s cause for concern as participants — kids and teens specifically — suffer injuries from the viral prank. Yahoo! Lifestyle reports that at least two children in the United States have been hospitalized after trying their hand at the internet craze.
“Although it can seem like a harmless prank to children [and] adolescents, they should be educated on the potential serious consequences of doing the skull breaker challenge,” Dr. Nathan Richards, a pediatric physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told the online site.
The trend reportedly originated in Spain and involves two people and a third unsuspecting participant. They film themselves jumping into the air; as the middle person is in the midst of jumping, the two others swing their legs inward to knock them off balance, causing them to fall on their head.
Two teens in Florida could possibly face criminal charges for pulling the dangerous prank. Students at Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach filmed the moment they intentionally tripped a Black student for laughs as part of the viral challenge. The victim, who reportedly has special needs, is seen struggling to pick herself up from the floor after she’s sent tumbling.
Though administrators said she didn’t suffer any injuries in the incident, the girl’s parents have decided to press charges.
Arizona mother Valerie Hodson said her son wasn’t so lucky and was left badly hurt after two “friends” tricked him into participating in the trend.
“He landed hard flat on his back and head, as he struggled to get up he lost consciousness” Hodson wrote in a Facebook post. “He fell forward landing on his face. The school monitor ran to his side, all the while the 2 boys were snickering and laughing as his stiff unconscious body lay on the asphalt.”
The incident left the boy with a head injury, cuts inside his mouth and a gash on his face that required stitches, his mother said.
Richards, who also specializes in internal medicine, has warned against the challenge, as it can result in severe injuries — and even death.
“It can be associated with a variety of serious and even life-threatening injuries including, but not limited to, bruising, hematoma, skull fracture, neck strain, neck fracture, … and long term complications of concussion, bleeding in [or] around the brain, loss of consciousness, paralysis, and death,” the doctor told Yahoo Lifestyle.
Sabrina Sykes, Ph.D., a psychologist with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said it’s the “wow factor” that’s driving students to continue participating in the prank, despite being well aware of its risks.
“Social media, in turn, offers instant popularity among peers in the form of ‘likes’ and ‘followers,’ providing peer acceptance, buoying the teen’s self-concept, therefore, enhancing the draw to participate in these challenges,” Sykes explained.
Tik Tok has addressed the issue in a statement, saying it “does not allow content that encourages, promotes, or glorifies dangerous challenges that might lead to injury, [and] we remove reported behavior or activity that violates our guidelines.”
A spokesperson for the video platform told Atlanta Black Star that the safety of its users is a top priority and pointed to a new wave of videos discouraging others from participating in the online challenge.