Colo. 13-Year-Old Latest Victim of 'Choking Game'

Memphis Burgess' parents hope to raise awareness about dangerous activity
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2015 7:44 AM CST

(Newser) – Whether it's called "suffocation roulette," "cloud nine," or simply the "choking game," it's a dangerous activity that's been around for millennia, the Washington Post notes—and it's just resulted in another teen death. Memphis Burgess, a 13-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colo., was found by his dad Dec. 10 kneeling against his closet wall with a soft rope nearby, KKTV reports. "I thought he was messing with me and I shook his shoulder," Brad Burgess tells the station. "That's when he turned around [and] I noticed he was all blue and not breathing." The choking game creates a sense of euphoria by cutting off the brain's oxygen supply, typically by tightening an item like a tie or scarf around a person's neck, then loosening it right before the participant passes out. It's thought to have resulted in at least 1,000 deaths since 1934, according to GASP stats cited in the Post, and was documented in medical journals at least as far back as 1951.

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Many of these deaths are thought to be suicides by parents and cops who may never have heard of the game, per the Post. And it's a type of "recreation" that's alluring to certain teens, the Post adds: It's known as the "good kids' high," per Salon, appealing to children who wouldn't normally drink or do drugs, and a slew of YouTube videos showing other kids taking part makes it seem innocuous. "This is the age where kids are engaging in high-risk behaviors," an Ontario pediatrician who co-authored a study on YouTube and asphyxiation games tells the Post. "That's just what they do." It's an activity that Memphis' parents wish he had never heard of. "I [feel] robbed," his mom, Annette, tells KKTV. "He brought joy to everyone he met." She adds that her son had a cognitive delay that may have prevented him from realizing the possible consequences, and that she hopes parents broach the subject with their kids so "no other parent has to go through what we're going through right now." (Chicago police once issued an alert about the dangerous game.)

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