'Choking Game' Popular Among 6 Percent Of Youth
April 17, 2012

‘Choking Game’ Popular Among 6 Percent Of Youth

According to a new study, one in 16 adolescents in the U.S. are playing a risky game that is known as the "choking game."

The game involves putting pressure on the neck with a towel or belt to cut off someone's oxygen supply, giving the participant a "high" sensation.

The researchers surveyed eight graders in Oregon in 2009 to determine that the one-in-16 figure is in line with other U.S. states, as well as other countries.

Two-thirds of the study participants reported that they have played the choking game more than once, and over a quarter said they have played at least five times.

Dr. Thomas Andrew, New Hampshire's chief medical examiner, told Reuters that it's the kids who are repeat offenders that need to be worried about.

"The kids that go on to repeat it, it may not be in groups anymore. It could escalate into doing it by yourself with a ligature, and of course that's the highest risk of all."

He said that the game risks the chance of seizures, which can cause brain damage, as well as asphyxiation.

He said there has also been cases reported of fatal head injuries when kids hit the ground after they lose their air supply.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 82 media reports of kids dying from playing the choking game from 1995 through 2007.

The researchers of the Oregon study found that kids who were sexually active and those who used drugs or alcohol were most likely to have played the choking game.

They said that it is important for parents and other adults who work with kids to bring up the dangers of the choking game to those who they oversee.

According to Andrew, teaching kids and teens about the dangers of the game should be part of programs that also address drugs, alcohol and risky sexual behavior.

Dr. Dennis Woo, a staff pediatrician at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, said parents should be aware of a child's friends and their activities.  He said they should take notice of behavior changes as well, like suddenly not doing well in school.

Lead researcher Robert Nystrom, adolescent health manager at the Oregon Public Health Division in Portland, said parents should look for marks on the neck, red dots around the eyelid and unexplained headaches.

The study was published online April 16 in the journal Pediatrics.