Ocular injuries from paintball pellets

Ophthalmology. 1999 Mar;106(3):533-7. doi: 10.1016/S0161-6420(99)90112-4.


Objective: To evaluate the ocular effects of blunt trauma due to injury from a paintball pellet.

Design: Noncomparative case series.

Participants: Thirteen patients who suffered ocular injury from paintballs are described. The patients presented to six different civilian and military emergency departments in tertiary care medical centers.

Intervention: Patients were treated for the ocular injury.

Main outcome measures: Patients were evaluated for initial and final visual acuity. The reason for persistent loss of vision was delineated.

Results: There were 12 males and 1 female with an average age of 21 years (range, 12-33 years). Eleven of the 13 had no ocular protection at the time of the ocular injury. On initial examination, nine patients had a hyphema, nine had a vitreous hemorrhage, six had a retinal tear or detachment, three had corneal or corneal-scleral ruptures, and one had traumatic optic neuropathy. The final visual acuity was 20/40 or better in two patients, 20/50 to 20/150 in three patients, and 20/200 or worse in eight patients.

Conclusion: Injuries due to paintball pellets can result in severe ocular damage and significant loss of vision. Eyecare professionals should be aware of the risks of this sport and must strongly advise participants to wear adequate protection when involved in this activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Corneal Injuries*
  • Eye Injuries / etiology*
  • Eye Injuries / pathology
  • Eye Injuries / surgery
  • Eye Protective Devices
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyphema / etiology
  • Hyphema / pathology
  • Male
  • Paint
  • Play and Playthings / injuries*
  • Retinal Detachment / etiology
  • Retinal Detachment / pathology
  • Retinal Perforations / etiology
  • Retinal Perforations / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rupture
  • Sclera / injuries*
  • Visual Acuity
  • Vitreous Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Vitreous Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / etiology*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / pathology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / surgery