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Suisun City Police Officer Michael Urlaub talks Tuesday to students in P.E. class at Crystal Middle School about the dangers of the "choking game." Heather Venezio, director of the NorthBay Trauma Unit, also spoke and said different names are used to describe the activity that is not a game and can cause brain damage or death. (Ryan McCarthy/Daily Republic.)


‘Choking game’ can come to deadly end, students told

By From page A1 | March 19, 2014

SUISUN CITY — The names change but the activity is no game and can cause brain damage or death, the director of  NorthBay Healthcare’s Trauma Unit told students Tuesday at Crystal Middle School.

“It may look funny on YouTube,” registered nurse Heather Venezio said of what’s often called the “choking game.” But Venezio said the consequences of what’s also known Chinese Knockout, Space Cowboy and Purple Dragon are dangerous.

Four teens from the middle school were treated late last week at NorthBay after participating in the “choking game,” she later said. The four are all right but that’s not always how the activity ends, Venezio said.

She said when she worked about a dozen years ago in Louisiana one youth died and another suffered brain damage from participating in the activity.

The trauma unit director spoke to P.E. classes. After three such sessions, all students at the middle school with an enrollment of about 950 were to hear from Venezio as well as law enforcement and emergency service representatives.

Suisun City Police Officer Michael Urlaub, who as a youth attended classes in the Fairfield-Suisun School District, said he might be one of the first people to respond to a “choking game” incident. A student who encourages someone to participate in the activity can get into legal trouble, Urlaub said.

Many jobs now require background checks and such a record can cause roadblocks when students later seek to begin their careers, he said.

James Bugai, a supervising paramedic, said head injuries, broken bones, bleeding and seizures are among the potential consequences.

A 2010 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the game can cause long-term disability and death among youths. The federal agency reported 82 deaths nationwide attributed to the choking game and other strangulation activities during 1995-2007.

Most victims were boys between the ages 11 to 16, the CDC said.

Kristen Witt, principal of Crystal Middle School, said the speakers were invited to educate students about the dangers of what’s called the “choking game.”

“We do not want to see any of our students get hurt,” she said.

Consequences ranging from suspension to expulsion can follow the activity, Witt said. She said some students didn’t do anything Thursday when learning about others participating in the activity because they worried about their social standing with other students if they told teachers.

Get that out of your mind, Witt told students. Saving someone’s life trumps your school social status, she said.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


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