January 19, 2009

Paintball can cause serious eye injury

U.S. eye doctors warn eye protection is needed to prevent devastating eye injuries caused by paintball.

Paintball has an estimated 10 million participants in the United States.

The study, published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, found the paintball eye injuries incurred in a non-recreation, uncontrolled setting and many were quite severe -- including rupture of the eyeball in 28 percent of patients and detached retina in 19 percent.

Surgery was required in 81 percent of patients, including eventual removal of the eye in 22 percent. Overall, near-normal vision was restored in only 36 percent of eyes, the researchers said.

Eye injuries secondary to high-velocity paintballs can cause tremendous damage to vital ocular structures often requiring extensive surgical intervention, Dr. Kyle Alliman of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said in a statement. Unfortunately, visual loss is often permanent.

None of the injuries occurred in formal, sponsored events which usually require eye protection and education.

The researchers analyzed injuries in 36 patients -- mostly young men -- treated for paintball injuries at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, from 1998 to 2005.