A 13-year-old Colorado boy, Memphis Burgess, died Dec. 10 after playing the choking game, which has become popular among middle-school students.
Brad Burgess, Memphis' father, talked about the day he found his son’s body in a closet with a rope in the family's home in Colorado Springs, reports KKTV.
“I went into his closet and I found him leaning up against the wall on his knees. I thought he was messing with me and I shook his shoulder,” he said. “That's when he turned around I noticed he was all blue and not breathing.”
According to his teachers and parents, Memphis was a special needs student, a fact that may have played a role in playing the game to such a fatal extreme.
“[The teacher said] that he had a cognitive delay so he probably didn't realize the severity of the repercussions,” Memphis’ mother, Annette Burgess, said.
Still, many middle-school students without Memphis’ difficulties play the choking game, prompting concern.
Since 1934, The Washington Post reports more than 1,000 people have died playing, yet the game was known long before that -- even during the Victorian era.
While only 5 to 10 percent of middle school students have played it, experts fear the rise of asphyxiation games featured on social media will make it a more common thing for kids to try.
“No parent thinks their kids are asphyxiating themselves until they pass out; that’s horrifying to parents,” pediatrician Martha Linkletter told The Washington Post. Linkletter has co-authored a study on the links between choking games and social media. “But this is the age where kids are engaging in high-risk behaviors. That’s just what they do.”
“They make it look like a funny, awesome activity,” Linkletter added, talking of the videos online. “Everybody is laughing, giving high fives, even when someone is having a hypoxic seizure on the ground ... That can normalize it. It makes it seem like everyone is doing this.”
The choking game involves cutting off one’s flow of oxygen, for example, by tying a rope around one’s neck, to experience a brief high, reports the Daily Mail.
By altering the blood’s pH level, euphoria can result. But so can strokes, brain cell damage and sometimes, as in Memphis’ case, death.