Ocular trauma resulting from paintball injury

Patricia J Pahk, Ron A Adelman
Graefe's Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology 2009, 247 (4): 469-75

BACKGROUND: Paintball-related ocular injuries result in severe damage and loss of vision. Despite efforts to increase public awareness and improve safety features, the incidence of eye injuries has increased over time. We examined the characteristics and ocular effects of paintball injury at our tertiary referral center.

METHODS: Retrospective review of charts of patients with paintball injury between 1998-2005.

RESULTS: Fourteen patients were evaluated for paintball injury; 13 (93%) were male and one (7%) was female. Average age was 17 years (range from 9 to 30). Thirteen patients (95%) did not wear eye protection; one is unknown. Injuries occurred while playing paintball in three patients (21%); ten (71%) were injured in either accidental (four patients) or intentional (six patients) shootings not associated with play. Minimum follow-up was 6 weeks, except for one patient who was lost to follow-up. Seven patients (50%) had final visual acuity (VA) better than 20/200, six patients (43%) were 20/200 or worse, and information on one patient was not available. VA, except in one case, improved with treatment. Decreased VA in this case was due to proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR). Hyphema was noted in ten patients (71%), vitreous hemorrhage in eight (57%), retinal hemorrhage in six (43%), retinal tear or detachment in six (43%), commotio retinae in six (43%), iris injury in five (36%), keratopathy in four (29%), lens injury in two (14%), subluxation of lens in two (14%), secondary glaucoma in two (14%), open globe/intraocular foreign body (IOFB) in one (7%), choroidal rupture in one (7%), and proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) in one (7%). Ten patients (71%) required intervention (surgery, laser retinopexy or cryotherapy).

CONCLUSION: Paintball trauma results in significant ocular injury and loss of vision. Most injuries occur in unsupervised settings without proper eye protection. Ten patients (71%) were injured in accidental or intentional shootings. Lack of supervision and use of paintball materials as assault weapons make the risk for ocular injury more significant. Improved safety features of paintball equipment, along with continued education of proper eye protection, may reduce the incidence of severe ocular injuries.

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