Teen Choking Game Has Fatal Consequences

ByABC News
June 22, 2006, 9:01 AM

June 28, 2006 — -- Michele Mansfield didn't think twice when her 16-year-old son, Nick, asked to borrow a belt.

Little did she know that Nick wanted it so he could play the choking game, a dangerous diversion that would later kill him.

"He was smart as a whip. He could do anything, and I trusted him," Mansfield said.

In the choking game, also known as the flatliner or the pass-out game, adolescents attempt to experience a quick high -- a high that lasts only a second -- by strangling themselves. Kids commonly use belts, ropes, towels or their own hands to cut off oxygen. If the kids hold on for too long their organs begin to shut down or they are strangled to death. Some kids have reported experiencing seizures when they play.

The biggest problem about this game -- besides its potential deadliness -- is that it's fairly easy to hide. Accurate numbers on how many teens try it are hard to pin down. A New Hampshire medical examiner who handled the cases of two teens who died playing the game told the American Academy of Pediatrics that it "boggles my mind how prevalent it is."

Mansfield said that parents should keep this in mind as their children head off to summer camps. She found a photograph of her son playing the game with a friend at his church summer camp.

Mansfield, in addition to developing a Web site in memory of her son, gives presentations around the Phoenix area alerting children and their parents to the risks of playing the choking game. She believes that if she'd known about the game, her son might still be alive.

"It wasn't something that anybody had talked about or that I had heard about," Mansfield said. "Boys play it at football practice or at camps. They put down mattresses so they don't hit their heads when they fall."

The game's warning signs -- such as bloodshot eyes, frequent headaches and increased irritability -- are hard to catch, but two major camping organizations said counselors are trained to be aware of strange games kids might play.