Choking game knocks boy unconscious in school yard
A 10-year-old boy is recovering after taking part in a potentially fatal schoolyard game at Auckland's Glenbrae School on Tuesday.
Trent Mataroa, in year 5, passed out and hit his head while playing a game called "blackout", which culminates in a person holding their breath or strangling themselves until they lose conciousness or feel faint.
The boy's mother, Tepaeru Mataroa, received a call from the Glen Innes primary school saying her son was in the sick bay and needed to be collected after an accident left him with headaches.
"It's quite dangerous, I didn't realise how bad it was until I saw him, it looked like he'd been in an car accident," said Mataroa.
According to the school, Trent had been playing the game before school had started with a couple of older pupils when he fell on his face.
Trent Mataroa said he had no idea what was going to happen, he just went along with the older boys.
"His eyes were all blood-shot and his face was all grazed," Mataroa said.
"I took him straight to the doctors to have him checked out because he fainted. His nose was bleeding and he hit his head hard on the ground when he fainted.
"This is very serious and the outcome would have been different if he didn't wake up from the blackout."
Trent had two days off school, during which he experienced headaches and dizzy spells. He returned to school on Thursday.
The school's principal, Lesley Elia, said it was likely they were playing the game because they saw it on TV or the internet.
Elia said that it was a one-off incident and steps had since been put in place to make sure it didn't happen again. All students had been warned of the incident and told not to play the game.
Mataroa wanted other parents to be aware of the "game" and to educate their children of the risks of such behaviour.
"It's scary as a parent, it's not something to be taken lightly. It could have cost him his life."
NOT A NEW PROBLEM
While the practice of asphyxiation for fun has been around for decades, it has largely slipped under the radar in New Zealand since schools are self-governing and are not obliged to report such instances to the Ministry of Education.
"We're not aware of any particular interest in this game at the moment in schools," said Katrina Casey, head of sector enablement and support at the Ministry of Education.
In 2012, the Education Ministry issued a letter to primary school principals in Northland stating: "We recommend that you and your staff remain alert to the potential for students' involvement in the 'blackout game', be mindful about young people's internet and technology use and are prepared to support them to communicate about things they may be hearing, writing or receiving."
In 2011, a 15-year-old Gold Coast girl choked herself to death in an attempt to achieve a euphoric high.
In 2010, a coroner ruled the death of a 13-year-old British boy was likely to have resulted from the act.
In 2009, Coroner Wallace Bain concluded a 12-year-old Tauranga boy died by strangulation after experimenting with a fainting game while alone in his bedroom.