St. Johnsbury Academy responds to 'blackout game' incident

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SAINT JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) A dangerous game is re-surfacing on social media and in schools. One student from St. Johnsbury Academy was taken to the hospital as a result of the "blackout game."

Wednesday at Saint Johnsbury Academy, a group of students was playing the so-called game when one of them fell unconscious and no one was there to catch him. He suffered some broken teeth and other injuries to his face.

Headmaster Tom Lovett met with students Thursday morning to talk about the incident. He says faculty and staff can't be monitoring students 24/7 and that students need to step up and report any dangerous activity.

Reporter Dom Amato: Would you guys ever do it?
St. Johnsbury Academy Senior: No, I wouldn't want to make myself hyperventilate and pass out. It doesn't sound fun to me.

But it did sound fun to at least one student at the private school. "This student happened to do that and there was nobody to catch him," said St. Johnsbury Police Chief Tim Page.

The blackout game is where one person takes several rapid deep breaths for approximately one minute. Then they allow another person to apply pressure on the neck forcing them unconscious -- and they pass out. And young people like to catch it all on camera. It is popular to share those videos on social media.

"It's very dangerous, and there's a couple ways it's dangerous," Lovett said. One of his students passed out playing the game during school hours on Wednesday. When he hit the ground, he broke some teeth. "Anytime oxygen is cut off from the brain, brain cells die, and if enough of them do in the right places, whole systems die, there are over 80 cases of people dying playing this game."

Also called the pass out game or the knockout game, the blackout game isn't new. The fad frequently re-surfaces online and Lovett says he's heard it dates back to at least the 1990s. "We became aware that this is now more than just this one incident -- that there were more people involved who were taking on this pass out challenge," he said.

In addition to the school wide meeting, a message was also sent out to parents warning them of the danger.

"I'm hoping it's just a fad and it will go by the wayside," Chief Page said.

"This was a really serious incident and it's not a good thing, but the response has been positive and I think we're moving in a good direction," Lovett said. He says he hopes students will step up and report this kind of activity so it doesn't continue. "We have to be vigilant. We have to have the conversations, educate people continuously, educate people when we see them doing dangerous things so we can stop it."

Lovett says they have heard a little from the family, but there was no official word on the student's condition.