What you need to know before stepping onto the paintball field

9 Investigates: What you need to know before stepping onto the paintball field

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nicholas Arias said he and his friends were looking for something to do, so they went to play paintball.

"I was just going there to have fun, and I wasn't really thinking of the things that could happen," Arias said.

"My mask was super loose and every time I ran, I couldn't see because it was going up and down," he told Action 9.

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So he took off his mask to adjust it. "One of the people from the other team came over in the corner and just started shooting," he said.

He said one of the paintballs hit him in his left eye. "Right when I got hit, I got on the ground, started screaming. I was asking for help," he said. "I had damage in my retina. I had a retina detachment."

Action 9 asked him if he will be able to see out of that eye again. "The doctor said, 'No,'" he replied.  "It really has changed my life because I've lost my eye, my vision, and I'm only 16 years old."

Fran Robinson, the owner of Palmetto Hills -- where Arias was -- emailed Action 9, "All the waivers and safety rule forms were signed by everyone. They were specifically told by me," Robinson wrote, "That the most important rules were that their masks had to be on at all times when they are on the fields and their barrel plug in the barrel when they are not on the fields. Nicolas was playing on the field and he stood up and took his mask and glasses off."

In 2004, the Academy of Pediatrics determined, "Pediatric eye injuries caused by paintballs are an unrecognized cause of severe injury and permanent visual loss."

In 2006, the Journal of Ophthalmology came to the same conclusion: "Paintball injuries often cause severe and permanent visual loss."

In 2018, the publication, Pediatrics, said: "Eye injuries remain common." It found, of all the children playing sports who ended up in the hospital because of eye injuries, almost half (48.5 percent) involved paintball and BB guns.

Paintballs travel 280 feet per second (roughly 190 mph).

A local paintball venue told Action 9, "If [players] don't follow rules, they get hurt."

Safety rules for paintball:

  1. Wear a mask at all times in the field or elimination zone. Make sure the mask is meant for paintball.
  2. Shoot less than 300 feet per second.  That can change throughout the game, so check your gun multiple times during play.
  3. Use barrel plugs to prevent firing accidentally.
  4. Always put the safety in the "safe" position or "off" position when not playing.