Is paintball a thrill or threat? - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Is paintball a thrill or threat?

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By Tim Miller - bio | email

Posted by Dave Dykema - email

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Bang! Pow! Splat!

Paintball is increasing in popularity among kids and young adults. It's both the thrill of the chase and the colorful splash of non-lethal colors when players hit their opponents that fuel the excitement.

However, according to a 2004 study from a medical journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics about paintball injuries said the number of eye injuries treated in emergency rooms more than doubled over a two year period.

So is paintball potentially dangerous or harmless fun?

"It's just fun!" says Dylan McFarland. "You get to shoot people!"

"Out of all my friends, there's only like two of them that don't do it," says Robbie Lawrence.

Bull Creek Paintball in Portage, near Bowling Green, is heaven for serious players. Every Sunday it's open to the public for games.

Players run and scream like children as teams are drawn up, tasks are assigned, and paint starts flying as warriors blast away at each other.

The object of one game had players fight their way to get a flag in the middle and take it to where the other team started.

Getting hit not only knocks you out of the game, it can also knock your body around.

Robbie Lawrence earns a huge red welt on his neck. It will turn into a nasty bruise.

"Oh, it stings. It will sting," he says. "It goes away a couple of minutes after you are shot, until you get shot again!"

Dylan McFarland knows about the most serious paintball injury. His cousin lost an eye from it.

"They were just messing around. He wasn't wearing his mask."

To find out just how powerful paintball blasts are, News 11 had Dr. Robert Boughton, the Chairman of the Department of Physics at Bowling Green State University, set up a force sensor.

From different distances, we measured the force and pressure on a tape box. We fired at it several times.

We broke the box with one blast.

Another shattered a glass barrier we had put in front of our camera to protect it.

After analyzing his data, Dr. Boughton says it's not surprising that people suffer red welts and bruises.

"Well I think it could do a lot of damage, particularly if it hits a delicate membrane like an eye or even a tooth," says Dr. Boughton.

Especially within 30 feet of the shooter.

"The estimates I've seen are that the paintballs are traveling about 150 feet per second at that distance," says Dr. Boughton.

That's 100 miles per hour!

It's obvious that paintball blasts cannot compare to the speed and force of firearms and paintball is not a deadly activity.

At Cleland's Outdoor World in Swanton, real firearms are discharged with regularity. Cleland's Matt Morris, who also plays paintball, says gun guidelines still apply, and that safety should always be a priority.

"You always have to wear your facemask and your goggles. It's easier if you wear long clothes and gloves because you don't hurt yourself as bad because they do leave welts," says Morris. "It's not 'painful painful,' but it does hurt."

But what about a doctor's perspective?

Kris Brickman is the Medical Director of the ER at the University of Toledo Medical Center.

He says paintball is a relatively safe sport and it's not the bruises that worry him, but the serious eye injuries he has treated.

"You can get ongoing bleeding that can become more of a complication that does not allow you to see clearly. So those problems can be permanent," says Dr. Brickman, adding, "I don't want to trivialize this by saying it can be only a minor problem that will go away with time."

The State of Ohio does not regulate paintball playing. But co-owner of Bull Creek Paintball tells News 11 they check every gun their players bring in to make sure they do not fire beyond 270 feet per second.

That's the industry standard set by insurance companies.

Bull Creek also requires referees on the field to enforce safety measures.

They say most of the serious injuries come from kids playing in their backyards, with no protection or supervision.

Copyright 2009 WTOL, a Raycom Media station. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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