Milk Crate Challenge: Why people are taking huge, terrifying falls on social media

Read on for more about this strange new trend on TikTok and beyond.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
Expertise Erin has been a tech reporter for almost 10 years. Her reporting has taken her from the Johnson Space Center to San Diego Comic-Con's famous Hall H. Credentials
  • She has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
Erin Carson
3 min read

The Milk Crate Challenge is trending, and risky. 

Getty Images

Every so often, the internet opens a portal on a weird new trend. Case in point: the Milk Crate Challenge. You'll find a collection of videos on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter of people stacking milk crates, trying to climb them like a staircase, and taking dangerous falls -- because, believe it or not, piles of milk crates don't make for sound structures.

Before getting banned on TikTok, videos with the hashtag #milkcratechallenge had racked up more than 10 million views, and #cratechallenge had more than 82 million views, before the platform started taking down the clips. Here's what's been going on with the Milk Crate Challenge.

What is the Milk Crate Challenge?

The Milk Crate Challenge involves stacking milk crates in a pyramid of sorts so they form steps. People try to climb up one side and down the other as the stacks get increasingly precarious. When they make a misstep or the physics of the situation just don't hold out, they fall to the ground, usually on top of the toppled crates. 

Is anyone getting hurt?

So far it's hard to tell if anyone has gotten seriously injured. Doctors told Today that falls could result in injuries like "broken wrists, shoulder dislocations, ACL and meniscus tears, as well as life-threatening conditions like spinal cord injuries."

On Sunday, Atlanta's WSB-TV reported that a metro Atlanta health worker has seen two injuries from the challenge. 

The videos of the falls can be pretty wince-inducing, with people landing on their backs, sides and stomachs, and directly on the hard plastic corners of the crates. In one clip, a guy stands at the very top of the pyramid and wobbles dramatically for several seconds before taking another step and just crashing to the ground. 

Then there's this skilled (or simply lucky) woman, who managed to get up and down a stack while wearing heels. 

Baltimore's Health Department tweeted a reminder that if you get hurt participating in this trend, there might not be a hospital bed for you, given the severity of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Along those lines, Star Trek's George Takei tweeted about how it seems some folks are more likely to participate in the challenge than to get a COVID shot. 

How did the challenge start and what are people saying about it?

It's unclear how exactly the trend got started, though it seems to have picked up steam over the weekend. On Monday night, it even made Jimmy Kimmel Live when guest host Stephen A. Smith showed some clips and talked about how dumb he thinks the trend is. 

"We're all so worried about COVID, but TikTok is what's going to kill us," he told the audience. 

Mark Ruffalo tweeted about the Milk Crate Challenge, saying Hulk wouldn't participate because of his hatred of stairs. 

Conan O'Brien also joked on Twitter about the trend needing approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which prompted the FDA to tweet back at him, discouraging the activity. 

How does TikTok feel about this?

If you directly search "milk crate challenge" on TikTok, the platform serves up a message saying, "This phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines." 

A spokesperson for the platform said via email: "TikTok prohibits content that promotes or glorifies dangerous acts, and we remove videos and redirect searches to our community guidelines to discourage such content. We encourage everyone to exercise caution in their behavior whether online or off."