Paintball safety alerts


An estimated 10 million people in the U.S. participate annually in paintball—a popular sport for many camps. Historically at Markel, paintball has few injuries; but unfortunately those that have been reported are severe eye injuries.

A study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology found that the majority of paintball eye injuries occurred in a non-recreation, uncontrolled setting. Many were quite severe—including rupture of the eyeball in 28 percent of the patients and a detached retina in 19 percent. Surgery was required in 81 percent of the patients. Eventual removal of the eyeball was required in 22 percent. Near-normal vision was restored to only 36 percent of patients.

Players are sometimes unwittingly at risk when their goggles fog up, or a paintball splashes on their face shield, and they remove their eye-wear. The injuries reported to Markel occurred when active players took off their glasses to clean them or when players on the sidelines began horsing around. When left unprotected, the eyes are subject to impact from paintballs traveling at 100-400 feet per second.

At least two fatalities have occurred related to unscrewing the CO2 cylinder valve from the paintball gun, thereby turning the cylinder into a lethal rocket.

Keep these tips in mind to increase safety during paintball games for your camp:

  • Use safety glasses specifically approved for paintball. Never use goggles with a cracked lens. Be sure to only use recommended goggle cleaning sprays, or you could weaken the lens.
  • Check the manufacturer’s safety information about lens replacement which could be as short as every six months, even when the lens is still in good condition.
  • It’s a good practice to always wear goggles, even in the chronograph area or anywhere near the playing field.
  • It is imperative to have referees present who will immediately remove players from the field who take off their eye protection or violate safety rules.
  • Barrel socks or plugs should not be removed until 10 seconds before play and should be put back on immediately after a participant is out of play.
  • It is essential to teach players that the paintball gun should always be considered as loaded.
  • Even if the CO2 tank has been removed, the paintball gun may still have a charge.
  • Find out if your camp is zoned by the county to permit paintball.
  • Markers should be shooting (chronoed) under 300 feet per second.
  • Always be careful when unscrewing a tank from a gun. If the brass fitting isn’t moving, stop.
  • Make sure any tank you are using has the proper hydro test date. Keep markers and tanks out of direct sunlight when not playing.
  • Do not permit participants to set up “booby traps.”
  • Post, review, and enforce the rules and boundaries of the contest.
  • Lock up the paintball guns when not in use, and store the ammunition and CO2 tanks separately from the guns.

This "document” is intended for general information purposes and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document cannot be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedure or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional or technical advice. Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser or trained professional. Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on this content.

Markel® is a registered trademark of Markel Group Inc.  

© 2023 Markel Service, Incorporated. All rights reserved.

Was this helpful?