Are your children or grandchildren running around shooting each other in the face? It sounds bizarre, but paintball enthusiasts do just that. The American Journal of Ophthalmology is warning that the sport can cause severe and “visually devastating” eye injuries, especially when used in unsupervised settings. Players gather in teams to shoot the opposition with paint pellets that fly up to speeds of 300 km per hour. The challenge however, is not in shooting the pellets, but dodging them. Many paintball facilities require customers to wear protective eye goggles. Most of the injuries studied by medical professionals involve injuries at home or in unsupervised and unofficial settings.
“Eye injuries secondary to high-velocity paintballs can cause tremendous damage to vital ocular structures often requiring extensive surgical intervention,” Dr. Kyle J. Alliman of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute said in a news release. “Unfortunately, visual loss is often permanent.”
Alliman and colleagues at the institute, in Miami, analyzed the characteristics and outcomes of 36 patients treated for paintball injuries between 1998 and 2005. The patients were mainly young men, average age 21 years. The injuries were often quite severe:
• rupture of the eyeball in 28 per cent of patients
• detached retina in 19 per cent
• surgery was required in 81 per cent of patients
• removal of the eye (enucleation) in 22 per cent
Even when the eye was saved, many patients had permanent visual loss, the study found. Overall, near-normal vision (20/40 or better) was restored in only 36 per cent of eyes. All of the patients were injured when using paintballs in a “non-recreational, uncontrolled setting,” according to Alliman. None of the injuries occurred in formal, sponsored event. In all but one of the 36 cases, the patient was not wearing any type of eye protection when the injury occurred.
This study follows a recommendation last year from the Montreal Children’s Hospital that paintball arenas to refuse entry to children under the age of 16.
A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in the late 1980s found 17 people out of 44 injured by paintball pellets became legally blind. Thirteen became visually impaired and only 14 regained normal vision.
They also found that most of the injuries happen at home and not at arenas where goggles are mandatory.
A later study published by U.S. journal, Pediatrics, estimated that more than 40 per cent of paintball injuries happened to children.
Source: “Paintballs can cause ‘devastating’ eye injuries”, CTV.ca