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END GAME - Sledding injury a pain in the rear

A 1-inch thick tree branch impaled a 7-year-old Montana boy through his left buttock during a sledding mishap. The boy had lost control of his sled on a downhill run, and the pine tree branch penetrated 6 inches into his body. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Bendet)

A 1-inch thick tree branch impaled a 7-year-old Montana boy through his left buttock during a sledding mishap. The boy had lost control of his sled on a downhill run, and the pine tree branch penetrated 6 inches into his body. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Bendet)

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Sledding is fun, but sometimes it can be a real pain in the butt. That's what a Montana family discovered when their 7-year-old son hit a small pine tree and had a branch penetrate 6 inches into his body through his left buttock.

A.J. Wagner, of Billings, Mont., hit the tree while sledding out of control. His mother, Victoria Wagner, says the branch reached his abdomen, and A.J. suffered bruises to his intestines and stomach, according to The Montana Standard.

The boy needed surgery to remove the branch, but was fortunate that no vital organs were punctured.

While getting impaled by a tree branch in the derriere is no ordinary sledding injury, sledding mishaps are common this time of year.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 160,000 sledding, tubing and tobogganing-related injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics nationwide in 2007 (the most recent statistics available). That's a startling rise from the 74,000 in 2004. Sledding injuries often include facial lacerations or skull fractures; tobogganing injuries almost always involve the lower half of the body, the commission reported.

While children under 14 are most at-risk for these injuries, adults also take a beating.

"Two of the main factors that contribute to sledding-related injuries are the environment and the locale," said Lara Mc-Kenzie, PhD, of the Ohio State University College of Medicine, in a news release.

McKenzie, who is affiliated with the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, says sledding areas should be clear of trees and other obstacles.

A.J. would agree ... although, his mother said he was in no hurry to get back to sledding Montana hillsides.