Ice bucket challenge participants keep getting hurt


Billionaire Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive of SoftBank Corp., takes part in the ice bucket challenge on Aug. 20. He did not injure himself. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg)

Regardless of your feelings about whether the ice bucket challenge is a laudable fundraising juggernaut or a stupid stunt or maybe even both, we can probably all agree that people hurting themselves while taking part in the viral stunt is a troubling trend.

A quick search of “ice bucket challenge fail” videos turns up an “America’s Funniest Home Videos”-type reel: people getting smacked in the head with buckets, people getting knocked over, people falling into bodies of water.

The slapstick antics are funny, if you’re into that sort of should-I-laugh-or-call-911 thing. But an ice bucket challenge fail can also be dangerous.

Last week, several Kentucky firefighters were injured in an ice bucket challenge that went awry: The ladder bucket they’d been using to dump water on college students taking part in the challenge got too close to a power line, and two firefighters were seriously injured by an electrical shock. Two others were hurt when they tried to climb the ladder to aid the injured firefighters.

In Asia, where the challenge has gained momentum, the Hong Kong Medical Association issued a warning to expectant mothers, the elderly and people with heart conditions, saying there are increased injury risks if they take part in the challenge.

The vast majority of people who participate in the challenge — which is intended to raise money for the ALS Association – appear to do so without sustaining life-threatening injuries. But the “fails” could end up throwing cold water on the entire trend.

On Sunday, 18-year-old Cameron Lancaster died after drowning in a flooded Scottish quarry. While teens have long jumped into the water at that particular quarry, the Independent reported, “it is thought that he took part in the ice bucket challenge before entering the water in the quarry.”

One mother, according to the Independent, said she asked her 15-year-old son what he’d heard about Lancaster’s death. “And he told me that a young guy had taken part in the ice bucket challenge and then jumped in the quarry and didn’t come up.”

“The ice bucket challenge is for a fantastic cause,” Irish Water Safety official Aisling Cushen told the Irish Independent, “and it’s dreadful that it has been marred by this tragedy.”

The viral fundraiser is bound to become the stuff of multiple case studies. Part public awareness, several parts philanthropy, the campaign has raised more than $94 million since July 29, the ALS Association said Wednesday. ALS organizations in other countries have reported raising significant sums of money, as well, to fund research and care services for people stricken with the neurodegenerative illness that’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

As the money pours in, the hits keep coming.

On Tuesday, a Belgian man landed in the ICU in a Spanish hospital after a firefighting plane dropped about 400 gallons of water on him, possibly as part of an ice bucket challenge, according to the Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia.

And an Irish teacher’s ice bucket challenge reportedly ended with her running into a pole and knocking herself unconscious, according to Irish Times. The woman appeared to be in good spirits later and posted the video online.

The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association has since issued a warning on its Facebook page, saying that the challenge is “not a competition. Anyone undertaking the challenge shouldn’t put themselves at any risk. It’s a simple challenge — if you’re doing it, keep it simple and safe.”

Elahe Izadi is a general assignment national reporter for The Washington Post. She can be reached at elahe.izadi@washpost.com and on Twitter @ElaheIzadi.
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