The most recent data are from 2008 and paint an interesting picture of paintball: only 614 people ended up in EDs as a result of paintball injuries. Of those, only 12% (or approximately 74 people) were admitted to the hospital meaning that the vast majority were treated and released, implying that the injury wasn’t overly serious. To put the total number of ED visits in perspective, it’s estimated that over 10 million people play paintball in the United States each year, which means that if you play paintball, you have less than a one in 16,000 people who play paintball will end up in the ED and fewer than one in 135,000 will be admitted to a hospital. The odds of a serious injury, then, are astronomically low.
This report, though, certainly only tells part of the story. Some people who are injured do not go to the ED and some people who go to the ED may not have actually been playing paintball, such as people who were hurt when they shoot themselves while working on a gun or were shot in a drive-by paintball assault.
More importantly, the report does not tell the types of injury that player received. How many people went to the ED because of welts and bruises that are a part of paintball and how many went because of serious injuries? Of the serious injuries, how many were from players who had taken their mask off while on the field?
The effect of the report doesn’t change my perception of the safety of paintball. I still feel that, as long as players wear their masks, it is a very safe game. There will be minor injuries (bruises and strains), but major injuries are simply not a part of the sport.
Fortunately severe injuries are very rare in paintball. In the past few years the only severe injuries I am aware of have come as a result of players improperly removing their masks. Just like all other sports, minor injuries are part of playing, but, as long as players follow the safety rules, they shouldn't worry about getting severely injured.