The Brief: There have been recorded instances of children and teenagers tripping each other in what's known as the "Skull Breaker Challenge" on social media. Here's what you need to know about this potentially dangerous but relatively uncommon trend.
What Is The Skull Breaker Challenge?
The “Skull Breaker Challenge” is a prank that has been seen on social media in which two people trick someone else into jumping up in the air before simultaneously tripping them. Depictions of this “challenge” typically show two people pretending to a third that they’ll all be doing a dance move that involves jumping up in the air, only to stick their feet out while the third person jumps so that they fall, sometimes landing on their head, hence the name “skull breaker.”
This is the skull breaker challenge. Please please PLEASE don’t do this 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼 People have died from this (I cut the video I received from another mum)
Why do kids do these stupid things 😣 pic.twitter.com/WNgn2HcPTp
— ♔ Jennifer ♔ (@britishchickAD) February 14, 2020
— anu sehgal (@anusehgal) February 15, 2020
Many sources cite TikTok as the place where this challenge went “viral,” but the vast majority of content about the Skull Breaker trend comes from parents posting about its risks.
Safety concerns associated with tripping someone like this include bruises, broken bones, and other injuries in addition to the emotional effects of being bullied. According to Nathan Richards, MD, a physician interviewed in a Yahoo Lifestyle article, “The skull breaker challenge is an emerging prank being propagated on social media that results in forceful trauma to the head and neck area. 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, concussion and long term complications of concussion, bleeding in or around the brain, loss of consciousness, paralysis, and death.”
Is This Cause For Concern?
While there are serious risks to tripping people so that they fall on their head, the breadth of this challenge may be exaggerated as it was for the Bird Box, Tide Pod, and Shell-On challenges. Although there are rumors spreading on social media that the Skull Breaker Challenge has caused multiple deaths, and several articles allude to a reported death of a girl in Brazil, these accounts are thus far unconfirmed by authorities or international news outlets. There have been several reports of hospitalization and injury related to the challenge in the United States.
It’s reasonable for any parent reading about this potentially dangerous activity to be concerned, but the spread of this phenomenon on social media is lower than one might think. At the time of writing, videos associated with hashtag #SkullBreakerChallenge have received 1.5 million views on TikTok. For comparison, videos associated with the hashtag #Oatmeal have been viewed over 15 million times. Most of the videos labeled with the hashtag #SkullBreakerChallenge don’t actually depict people trying the prank. Instead, they warn people of its dangers and comment on how ridiculous the idea is, such as in these videos made by German and Italian medical professionals:
@heliosberlinbuchStoppt die #skullbreakerchallenge. Die ist echt gefährlich und ihr könnt euch richtig verletzen… #fy #foryou #fürdich #nurse #neinneinnein♬ Nein (feat. Camira) – Mike Singer
@crimascaluciaStop! #skullbreakerchallenge #crocerossa #crocerossaitaliana #crimascalucia♬ Rompe – HJM Mix – Dj Jad, Wlady, Jay Santos
The lack of #SkullBreakerChallenge videos that can be found on TikTok may be due to few being posted in the first place, or it may be a result of the effective implementation of TikTok’s safety procedures. A TikTok spokesperson told Refinery 29: “as we make clear in our Community Guidelines, we do now 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.”
The Skull Breaker Challenge certainly should not be tried at home and has the potential to be harmful, even though most of the content about it on social media consists of warnings rather than the “challenge” itself.