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Paintball injury can cause severe or permanent vision loss

There are an estimated 10 million participants in paintball sport all across the United States. While paintball has become widely popular, paintball-related eye injuries have also become well-documented.

In a study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology of 36 patients treated at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for paintball injuries to the eye, the injuries were often severe. Eighty one percent of patients needed surgery – including enucleation (removal of the eye). The rest had a rupture of the eyeball or detached retina (light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye). Although normal vision was restored in 36% of eyes, the majority had permanent visual loss.

The paintball injuries, however, did not occur in a formal or recreational event and in all but one of the cases, the patient did not wear any protective eyewear. Still, in an earlier similar study, injury occurred both in formal and informal games.

Lead author Dr. Kyle J. Alliman of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said, “Eye injuries secondary to high-velocity paintballs can cause tremendous damage to vital ocular structures often requiring extensive surgical intervention. Unfortunately, visual loss is often permanent.”

The study concluded that use of protective eyewear could have prevented over 97 percent of the injuries.
Mask or goggles that completely cover the face, which may include throat guards, are to be worn at all times on the field as protective device. There had been previous analyses reporting eye injuries where masks were improperly used, removed or not enforced.

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