Study Warns of Deaths Due to 'Choking Game'
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[February 16, 2008]
ATLANTA, Ga. -- At least 82
young people have died as a result of playing what has been called
"the choking game," according to a study released by the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Thursday's Morbidity and Mortality
Weekly Report. The choking game involves intentionally trying to
choke oneself or another in an effort to obtain a brief euphoric
state or "high." Death or serious injury can result if strangulation
Eighty-seven percent of these deaths were among males, and most
fatalities occurred among those 11 years to 16 years old. The
average age was 13, the report said. Choking game deaths were
identified in 31 states.
CDC found that most of the deaths
occurred when a child engaged in the choking game alone, and that
most parents were unaware of the choking game prior to their child′s
"Because most parents in the study had not heard of the choking
game, we hope to raise awareness of the choking game among parents,
health care providers and educators, so they can recognize warning
signs of the activity," said Robin L. Toblin, Ph.D., M.P.H., the
study′s lead author. "This is especially important because children
themselves may not appreciate the dangers of this activity."
Three or fewer choking game-related deaths per year were reported
in the news media from 1995 to 2004, the report said. However, 22
deaths occurred in 2005 and 35 in 2006. Nine deaths occurred in the
first 10 months of 2007; the explanation for this decrease is
unclear. The researchers said the study probably underestimates the
number of deaths.
For this study, CDC analyzed media reports of deaths attributed
to the choking game. Deaths were not included unless the report
provided evidence that they were a result of the choking game.
"This report is an important first step in identifying the
choking game as a public health problem," said Ileana Arias, Ph.D.,
director of CDC's Injury Center. "More research is needed to
identify risk factors that may contribute to kids playing the
choking game and to determine what may help to reduce this type of
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Signs that a child may be engaging in the choking game include:
Discussion of the
game -- including other terms used for it, such as "pass-out
game" or "space monkey."
Marks on the neck.
spending time alone.
Ropes, scarves and
belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on
of things like dog leashes, choke collars and bungee cords.
If parents believe their child is playing the choking game, they
should speak to them about the life-threatening dangers associated
with the game and seek additional help if necessary.
For more information about CDC's work in injury and violence
[Text from CDC, U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services file received from Terry Storer, Logan
County Emergency Management Agency]