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Warning: The Choking Game Kills

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A study has found that many doctors are in the dark about this danger.


A new study has found that a third of the doctors -- 32 percent -- have never even heard of the choking game. But it can be deadly.

"I know that the choking game exists, but with the limited time allowed for health visits, it's hard to cover all high risk behaviors," American Academy of Pediatrics spokeswoman and momlogic expert Dr. Alanna Levine says. "That being said, it is important to touch on the subject and perhaps research such as this study will remind pediatricians to add it to the conversations."

She also added that doctors and parents should not wait for warning signs to appear before discussing the dangers of the choking game with kids.

Last year, we spoke with Sarah Pacatte, a mom who is all too familiar with the choking game and its deadly consequences. Her 13-year-old twin son, Gabriel, (pictured) died on May 6, 2005 while playing it. Sarah was just five feet away from him, right in the next room. "The choking game is something that kids hear about from other kids," says this mother of four. "They're told it will give them a high and that it's not dangerous. But the truth is, it kills."

And even if a child plays it and doesn't die, the list of other potential side effects is long. They include: bruises, concussions, broken bones, seizures, brain damage, retinal hemorrhaging, and even stroke. Because there's no standardized way to report deaths as a result of the choking game, it's hard to track exactly how many kids have died from playing it. The first government report of choking game fatalities found that 82 kids have perished from it since 1995, reported CBS News. But according to Pacatte, that figure is likely much higher, due to the fact that many of these deaths are actually reported as accidents, strangulation, hanging, or suicide. She says that since her son Gabriel's death three years ago, more than 300 kids have perished while playing the game.

Since her son's tragic passing, Pacatte works with a group called GASP (Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play) to educate parents on the dangers of the choking game. "Parents need to talk to their kids about the choking game, just as they would talk to their kids about any other dangerous activity like drinking or doing drugs." If you're worried you'll "put ideas into your kid's head," Pacatte says those ideas are already there. "Kids across this country are talking about this and doing it. This game goes by many names: Suffocation Roulette, Black Out, Pass Out, Choking, Fainting, Strangle, Flatline, California High, Wall Toke, Funky Chicken and Space Monkey, to name a few. Just punch in 'pass out game' into YouTube and you'll find hundreds of videos of kids doing this 'for fun'." (We just did this, and were alarmed to see that some of these videos have been viewed over 10,000 times.) "They all think nothing will go wrong," she concludes. "But they need to know the game can be deadly."

The Centers for Disease Control officials urge parents to be aware the fad exists, and to watch for possible warning signs like bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck, frequent and severe headaches, disorientation after spending time alone, and ropes, scarves or belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor. For more warning signs your child is playing the choking game, click here.

next: Boynton Police Charge "Merry Christmas" With Obstruction
45 comments so far | Post a comment now
me again December 14, 2009, 5:48 PM

What I want to know is how do you know which kids died from playing the “choking game” and which ones died by asphyxiating themselves on purpose? I realize that parents would prefer to believe their children died playing a stupid game than the idea that the children took their own lives. I am genuinely curious as to how one can tell the difference.
My brother died by suicide a few years ago and my mother insisted it was an accident for months. Is this similar?

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