May 1, 2012

We are finishing up our discussion of a study that was recently published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers surveyed 5,400 Oregon eighth-graders about their experiences with the choking game. Players either strangle themselves or have someone else strangle them to cut off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. The result is a rush — when the blood and oxygen return to the brain — that comes with a real risk of brain damage or death.

According a mother whose son died when he tried to play the game at home, kids don’t understand that every time they do this they kill off brain cells. They don’t understand, she says, that the game is always risky, even if the player doesn’t suffer any immediate adverse effects.

The researchers discovered that 6.1 percent of the kids had played the game at least once. The next question, then, was to figure out who the kids are. They weren’t surprised by the results. They expected that kids who were participating in other risky behaviors would also be doing this. There are, however, plenty of “good” kids who play the game, too. For them, it’s a legal high, and the attitude is generally, “Hey, at least we’re not doing drugs.”

The real challenge is how to convince these kids that the game is dangerous. One key step is to teach pediatricians, school officials and parents what to look for. Kids who play the choking game will have bruising around the neck and bloodshot eyes; they will also complain about headaches.

As for letting kids know the dangers of the activity, a group of parents who have lost children to accidental strangulation hope the game can be included with lessons about drug and alcohol abuse and safe sex. The game has been around for years, and the game carries the same risk as those other activities.

Source:, “Who Is Playing the Choking Game?” Carrie Gann, April 15, 2012


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