The Choking Game: Texas Survey Says Lots of Kids Still Playing

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Sixteen percent of Sam Houston State University students responding to a survey about "The Choking Game" reported to having played the dumb-ass, potentially fatal game.

The Crime Victims' Institute study states that, of the 827 students who completed the survey, males were more likely than females to have played; "students who were bisexual or unsure of their sexual orientation" were more likely to have played than those identifying as hetero- or homosexual; and the average age of the first-time experience was 14.

Also known as "The Fainting Game," "Pass Out" and, for some reason, "Space Monkey," the "game" is pretty self-explanatory: a person restricts blood flow to the brain in order to produce a high. It was the subject of our cover story in 2007. Determining just how many kids have actually died from playing the game is pretty tricky; the Centers for Disease Control suggests that 82 kids died between 1995 and 2007.

Because other deaths may have been misclassified as suicides, the number might be higher, according to the study. When we first wrote about the Choking Game in 2007, we found the tragic story of a 14-year-old Spring girl who died while choking herself with a scarf, and her death was originally ruled a suicide.

Fortunately, the study actually includes a table of "techniques," which reduces the amount of guesswork for you folks who've never heard of it. The majority of respondents (31.6 percent) indicated they had someone squeeze their neck; 14 percent had someone press on their chest; nearly 13 percent squatted down and stood up repeatedly until they got all goofy; 3 percent took the ligature route; and an extremely determined 17 percent squeezed their own neck.

One of the most interesting claims in the study is that adolescents may have played the game for centuries; this is based on the claim that "the similar, the often unrelated practice of autoerotic asphyxiation has been documented as early as the 17th century" and that "ancient Native and Eskimo tribes detailed the practice of autoerotic asphyxiation among children." Eskimos? Really? Weird.

The study states that "even though awareness of the Choking Game is growing and more parents have reported understanding the risks of this activity, it should be noted that encouragement for parents to discuss this activity with their children should be stressed."

Hopefully enough parents will take heed, and there won't be a need for another study.

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