Neurologists say 'no justification' for police use of chokeholds

In a newly published viewpoint article, neurologists denounce the use of chokeholds and similar neck restraints by police officers, stating there is 'no medical justification' for this practice. The experts cite a number of potential consequences resulting from chokeholds while expressing concerns over the use of medical jargon by law enforcement in an effort to justify the practice.

Though neck restraints are prohibited in some states, others not only allow their use but specifically train police officers in how to put someone in a 'chokehold.' This training may be accompanied by claims about compressing the carotids arteries in the neck to cut off blood flow to the brain, alleging that doing so is safe and non-lethal.

Altaf Saadi, MD, a neurologist with Massachusetts General Hospital, counters the claim, stating 'there is never a scenario where stopping the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain is medically appropriate.' It can take as little as 13lbs of pressure to compress the carotid arteries.

This practice restricts blood flow — and thus oxygen — to the brain, which can rapidly lead to the loss of nervous tissue and have severe consequences to the victim — including things like a seizure, stroke, and death. Saadi went on to state:

What shocked me most was that much of the literature supporting these techniques hides behind medical language, but lacks a real understanding of the pathophysiology of the significant harm they cause to an individual. As neurologists, we are taught that 'time is brain,' because there's such a rapid loss of human nervous tissue when the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain is reduced or stopped.