updated 1/5/2004 1:46:32 PM ET 2004-01-05T18:46:32

Injuries to adults and children playing paintball have tripled in recent years, including eye damage causing lasting vision loss, a study found.

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From 1997 to 2000, paintball-related injuries nationwide climbed from 926 to 2,780, with up to a third occurring in children younger than 15, according to the study, which analyzed injury data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In 1999 alone, there were 519 eye injuries among 779 total paintball-related injuries to children under 15. Bleeding and retina detachment were among the most common eye injuries.

Many injuries occur because players are not wearing goggles or face masks, said researcher Dr. David Listman of St. Barnabas Hospital in New York.

Face masks required
Doctors should be aware of the dangers and lobby for restrictions in paintball equipment sales to minors, Listman said.

His study appears in January’s Pediatrics, published Monday.

Paintball is a battle game in which players shoot at each other using compressed-gas guns filled with marble-size paint capsules.

The game is played at organized paintball centers, which usually provide and require face masks, Listman said. But children often play without protective equipment in woods, back yards or even basements, he said.

Tim Richmond of the Paintball Business Association, which provides insurance for paintball fields and services for about 400 accounts, said the Greenville, S.C.-based group’s safety requirements include goggles or full face masks.

In 1999, an estimated 8 million people played paintball at more than 2,500 sites, Listman said.

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