Children Targets for Paintball Injuries
'War Games' May Put Children's Eyesight at Risk
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 6, 2004 -- Paintball-related eye injuries may be putting
children's eyesight at risk. A new study shows that eye injuries caused by the
popular combat-simulating game have more than doubled from 1998 to 2000,
despite improvements in eye protection devices.
The study shows more than 1,200 paintball eye injuries were
treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. in 2000, up from only 545 reported
injuries in 1998. Researchers say children account for more than 40% of those
Many of those who sustained paintball eye injuries suffered
from permanent vision impairment, with 43% having vision of only 20/200 or
worse upon follow up.
The results appear in the January issue of
The Perils of Paintball
Researcher shows paintball is an increasingly popular form of
war game, and an estimated 8 million people in the U.S. suited up in 1999 at
more than 2,500 sites.
Paintballs are small gelatin capsules filled with nontoxic,
water-soluble paint. But researchers say it's the small size (about 14
millimeters in diameter) and force with which the paintballs are fired that
makes them dangerous. The balls are fired at about 300 feet per second, and
they are small enough to strike or penetrate the eyeball directly and cause
Severe paintball eye injuries were first documented in 1985 and
goggles were soon recommended as protection. In recent years, more
sophisticated facemasks with integrated protective lenses have become the new
standard at organized paintball facilities.
But researchers say paintball eye injuries at noncommercial
paintball centers are becoming increasingly common, especially among
"What I think is happening is that adults who (play
paintball) go out with their businesses to centers where they require you to
wear eye protection," says researcher David Listman, MD, of the department
of pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in Bronx, N.Y., in a news release.
"Children, though, play in the backyard, in the woods and ... they're not
often going to take appropriate protective measures."
Listman says parents or other caregivers should supervise
children playing with paintballs and require them to wear modern eye protection
to reduce the risk of potentially blinding injuries.