Deadly 'Choking Game'
Becoming Popular With Kids
By Melissa Ludwig
San Antonio Express-News
SAN ANTONIO -- Students at San Antonio's Alamo Heights Junior School were caught playing the "choking game," according to a note sent home to parents.
The game's goal is a fleeting "high" that follows a lack of oxygen to the brain and has teens throttling themselves with belts and ropes, choking each other with bare hands or pulling plastic bags over their heads until they nearly pass out.
Also called "space monkey" and "flatline," the activity reportedly has killed at least five children in four states since September and has garnered widespread media attention.
Kevin Brown, a spokesman for the Alamo Heights School District, said a student alerted Principal Stephanie Kershner recently that a small group of kids was outside the school choking one another.
Brown said none of the students was injured. They were punished with in-school suspensions, he said.
Kershner sent an e-mail and letter to parents to alert them to the game, Brown said.
Kershner attached a July report by CBS News detailing the death of a California boy, Gabriel Mordecai, whose 13-year-old twin brother found him sitting on the ground with a rope around his neck.
The article lists warning signs such as marks around the neck, headaches and bloodshot eyes.
The mother of a seventh-grader involved in the Alamo Heights incident said her child and a neighbor's child had recently told her they were getting high by hyperventilating and having someone press down on their chests to produce the sensation of getting the wind knocked out of them.
The woman said she read news reports about the game, but found only mentions of belts, ropes and plastic bags rather than the version her child reported playing.
"It's a variation that is much more insidious," she said. "It is not readily evident to the kids that this is a stupid thing to do. Most of these kids would not have gone and wrapped something around their necks. But I could see a kid having read that article and not seeing what they were doing was the same thing."
All forms of the choking game are risky, said Dr. Stephen Carter, a San Antonio physician.
Cutting off the oxygen supply can cause brain damage, heart dysfunction and even death, Carter said.
Children do it for a lightheaded feeling that lasts a few minutes, he said. They often black out or become disoriented. Blood vessels hemorrhage in the whites of their eyes and their parents bring them to the doctor complaining about headaches, he said.
Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved



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