Dying to Play: A Special Report

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A new trend is silently killing teenagers and every parent needs to be aware of the dangers.

It's got many names: the pass-out game, space cowboy, the funky chicken, knock out and the choking game.

The thing is it is no game. It's a gamble and kids are dying to play. One father did not know anything about it until it was too late.

Michael Kelly proudly remembers his son Jonathan, a young man he called his little buddy.

"He was eleven," Kelly said.  "He was very innocent, very naive."

That innocence was taken away in 2005. Kelly blamed a game he said his son learned from older teens.

"They call it a way of getting high or having fun, but the hanging game is not a game," Kelly said.  "It is a deadly tool that is infiltrating all the teens right now."

This game is infiltrating teens in the Tennessee Valley and across the country.

Kelly Brainerd also lost her son Jay in Tennessee to the "choking game." He died just weeks away from his 18th birthday.

"I cried everyday because I couldn't imagine him not being here anymore," Brainerd said.

This trend is highlighted in vignettes all over the Internet and the how-to guide for teens shows passing out and the seizures. While kids seem to know all about it, their parents do not.

"They will tie something around their neck and its cuts off blood supply to the brain and you have this passing out sensation and kids may stay unconscious for a few seconds, some stay unconscious for a few minutes," Family Medicine Physician Dr. Ann Payne Johnson said.

Research suggests the game is played by people ages six to 25, some kids in groups, others alone.

"We found our son hanging from the bathroom earlier that afternoon," said one parent who experienced the dangerous trend first hand.  "He had been with some older teens and they had been experimenting with the hanging game and they weren't allowing him to participate. But he was a copy cat."

Experts say there is nothing sexual or illegal about it. It is a free rush costing kids their life, or their cognitive abilities.

"He didn't have a clue what he was experimenting with and what the consequences would be," said Kelly about his son Jonathan.

Those consequences were Jonathan passed out, fell and broke his neck a September day nearly five years ago. There was no second chance.

"Of course, it's very devastating to the families," said Kelly. "I've been there and lost an 11 year old son and it just trickles down into a lot of people's lives.  We are hoping that his life will save many others. I just don't want any other parent to experience what we had to experience."

That is why Kelly started an organization called Cross Road for Teens. Kelly said it is a way to talk with teens on their level and to hopefully influence them to make the right choices.

"Teens can be anything they want to be," Kelly said.  "But if they encounter this stuff and it takes their life or destroys their life, they are never going to become anything."

Doctors say there are recognizable signs if your teen is playing the choking game.  Including blood shot eyes, marks around the necks, being tired and being disoriented after they have spent time alone.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control say boys are more likely to die from the choking game than girls, and most victims are between 11 and 16 years old.

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