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Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh warns of sledding dangers

| Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, 11:42 p.m.

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh officials on Sunday cautioned against the dangers of a favorite wintertime activity upon the death of a Westmoreland County teen in a sledding accident.

Jenna Prusia, 16, of Washington Township died Friday from head injuries because a sled she rode with her sister crashed into a tree on private property along McCreary Road, authorities said. She was taken by medical helicopter to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she died, the Medical Examiner's Office said.

“Sledding has this connotation of innocence — fresh snow, rosy-faced kids going down hills on their sleds,” said Dr. Barbara Gaines, director of trauma and injury prevention at Children's. “My kids and I went sledding just yesterday. But you have to recognize that there is a potential for harm.”

After a heavy snowfall, hospital officials regularly treat 10 to 20 youngsters with sledding injuries, she said.

“Generally we can tell whether it's snowed over the weekend by looking at the number of kids who come in with sledding injuries,” she said.

Some suffer broken bones — an inconvenient injury, she said, but one that will mend. Others suffer brain trauma, which can be far more serious and lead to long-term health problems, Gaines said. She recommended sledders wear helmets.

“I liken sleds to bicycles,” she said. “We see very similar injuries with the two.”

Gaines encouraged parents to scout out a sledding hill for potential hazards before allowing children to ride down.

“Make sure there are no trees and that the kids won't get enough momentum where they'll slide into a road,” she said. “The biggest issues we see are kids hitting trees or sliding into roads and getting hit by cars.”

Prusia was an 11th grade student at Kiski Area High School. She was an honor student, played in the Kiski Area Concert Band and was a member of the girls volleyball team.

Her family could not be reached. In Prusia's obituary, her twin sister, Ashton, described her as “brave, funny, outgoing, spirited, loving, kind and beautiful. My best friend. My other half.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

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