A subway rider who killed a homeless 30-year-old man in New York by using a chokehold was using a technique many neurologists say is so dangerous it shouldn't be used in law enforcement.
Neck compressions (also known as strangleholds or chokeholds) involve applying pressure on both sides of your neck. Chokeholds are permitted in certain martial arts competitions and some U.S. soldiers in ground combat units may be trained to use them and their safe release.
In the last few years, the police have banned chokeholds more and more, after tragedies such as those of Eric Garner, George Floyd, and others.
Few data exist on the frequency of police use or the results. One of the few studies reported that police in Spokane (Wash.) used neck restraints for 230 times over the eight years prior to May 2021 when Washington State banned the use of these devices.
Neurologists have said that neck compression is dangerous, even though no deaths were recorded by the department.
Dr. Altaf Saadi is a neurologist from Massachusetts General Hospital. He explained that strangleholds or chokeholds can kill or injure the brain in two different ways. They can compress tracheas, which prevents the victim from breathing. They can also compress the carotids, which are located on either side, next to the trachea, at the base of the neck. Dr. Saadi stated that 70% of blood flowing to the brain goes through the carotid arteries. Some people may become unconscious within three to four second if the blood flow in their carotids is stopped by a chokehold, stranglehold or other means. If the blood flow is restricted for a long time, someone can die in three to four minutes.
Dr. Saadi explained that if a person is unconscious, it could be an indication of a possible brain injury.
Chokeholds can cause permanent brain damage and strokes, as well as cognitive impairment.
A neck compression can cause brain injury in people with cardiovascular diseases.
In a paper published in JAMA Neurology in 2020, Dr. Saadi, along with his colleagues, wrote: 'The risk of catastrophic repercussions are too high for neck restraints to be used in any situation.
The American Academy of Neurology has come out strongly against neck compression. The organization stated in a paper that the mantra of its field was 'time equals brain', meaning that brain tissue quickly dies when blood flow stops. In strokes, the group states that 1.9 million brain cells die every minute until blood flow is restored.
The group stated in a statement that neck restraints are a deadly force and should be classified as such.
The group also recommended that the technique be banned because 'no amount of training, or application method of neck restraints can mitigate the risk death or permanent neurologic damage'.