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Is Your Child Playing the 'Choking Game'?

Survey Finds 6% of Oregon 8th-Graders Have Tried the Potentially Deadly Activity

Getting the Word Out continued...

Nystrom's team also found that sexual activity and substance use were significantly associated with choking game participation for boys and girls.

Thomas Andrew, MD, New Hampshire's chief medical examiner, called Nystrom's study "very important," because "it gives us a better handle" on how many young people engage in the choking game.

"Now," Andrew says, "the question still before us is whether or not there are ways to identify that potential six percent" before they try it. Those teens could then be the focus of prevention strategies effective against high-risk behaviors, he says.

Instead of treating the choking game like some forbidden fruit, increasing its appeal, adults need to emphasize its health dangers, Andrew says.

"The thing I would say first for parents is don't be afraid to talk to your kids, and definitely listen to them," Nystrom says. Watch for warning signs, he says, such as talk about the game, attempts to hide marks on the neck, or ropes and the like tied on doorknobs.

Sharon Grant says her son, Jesse, told her he learned the choking game at summer camp and viewed it as just another type of camp hijinks, like short-sheeting a bunkmate's bed. She recognized it as dangerous but says she wasn't worried about her son because he was an "A" student and an athlete. It wasn't until three months after Jesse's death, Grant says, that she learned he had taught his younger brother how to play the game.

To prevent more deaths, Grant, who lives near the town of Barrie in southern Ontario, founded an organization called GASP, for "Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play." The group's goal, she says, is to educate parents, teachers, and other adults who come in contact with young people that the choking game is just as risky as drug and alcohol abuse.

The new study appears online in Pediatrics.


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