Student Injured in Choking Game
March 31, 2011
Wahkiakum High School students learned about the dangers of playing a choking game they call “tap out” last Wednesday, in an assembly prompted when a student playing the game was injured the previous week.
High School Principal Dan Casler and Superintendent Bob Garrett briefed the school board at its meeting on March 23.
On March 18, two male students were playing the choking game in the locker room after school. One student put the other in a headlock. When the student didn’t signal before losing consciousness, the other dropped him. The fall resulted in a concussion. The injured student received medical attention and has returned to school, Casler said.
The practice gives participants a high by depriving the brain of oxygen. Administrators said they were unaware that students had been engaging in this behavior, which can cause long-term brain damage and death.
During the assembly, staff sought to learn how wide spread the practice was.
Casler learned that the motive for local--primarily male--students was to see who could be in the headlock the longest, before he “tapped out,” or asked to be released. He said students had been involved for the past two years.
“They tell us it’s a macho thing,” Casler said. “’I can go longer than you can.’”
Casler said the district would increase supervision in locker rooms and elsewhere. School administrators held an assembly to gather information and to educate the students about the dangers of the practice. They invited local law enforcement officers and the prosecuting attorney to discuss consequences.
Superintendent Garrett told the assembly, “We’re a community. We can not have this.”
Casler said he is consulting with Middle School Principal Libby to determine the best way to educate the younger grades.
Board member Mike Quigley said he remembered observing the behavior in the locker room following a basketball game when he was in school in 1986.
Libby said she has heard children refer to it, saying, “Wait until you get to the high school.”
In 2008, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 82 deaths nationwide attributable to the choking game and other strangulation activities during the period 1995–2007; most victims were adolescent males aged 11–16 years.
To assess the prevalence in Oregon, the Oregon Healthy Teens survey added questions concerning familiarity with and participation in the choking game. The survey indicated that 36 percent of eighth grade respondents had heard of the choking game, 30 percent had heard of someone participating, and almost 6 percent had participated themselves.
Youths in rural areas were significantly more likely (6.7 percent) to have participated than youths in urban areas (4.9 percent). For further information see http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5901a1.htm.
According to prevention organizations such as the Dangerous Behavior Foundation, signs of the behavior may include severe headaches, inexplicable bruising or red linear marks around the neck, bloodshot eyes and/or petechiae (tiny red dots) on the face and unusual demands for privacy.
Some individuals play this game alone in their bedrooms by choking themselves with a belt or rope. The majority of the deaths from this game have involved youth playing the game alone.