Paintball Ruptures Woman's Breast Implant; Injuries Cause Thousands of ER Visits

Paintball and air gun-related injuries made up 20,000 ER visits in 2008.

ByABC News
September 1, 2011, 12:49 PM

Sept. 1, 2011— -- A British woman's silicone breast implant ruptured after she was shot in the chest during a paintball game, throwing a spotlight onto the potential dangers of a hobby that attracts millions.

"Due to an incident at our Croydon Paintballing centre … we respectfully ask that any ladies with surgical breast implants notify our team at the time of booking," UK Paintball wrote in a statement after the incident, which happened in Croydon, a town in south London.

"You will be given special information on the dangers of paintballing with enhanced boobs and asked to sign a disclaimer," the statement continued. "You will also be issued with extra padding to protect your implants while paintballing."

Symptoms of a ruptured implant include burning or tingling in the affected breast, lumps around the implant or armpit, change in breast size, and softening or hardening of the breast.

Staff at UK Paintball confirmed with the BBC that the woman is expected to make a full recovery.

About 10 million Americans participate in paintball activities, and many more worldwide, according to a new U.S. report. In 2008, more than 20,000 emergency department visits were related to injuries caused by air guns, including paintball guns and BB guns, according to the study.

The data, published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found that hospitals around the country saw an average of 56 visits associated with these guns each day. Males were five times more likely to visit the hospital for the injuries than females.

"We saw a strong demographic association," said Ryan Mutter, senior economist at AHRQ and lead author of the study. "Most people were male, young, poorer, Southern and rural."

"As an urban ED, we see very little of these injuries," Dr. Carl Ramsay, chairman of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, wrote in an e-mail. "In my previous experience in more rural areas, as reflected in this report, these injuries were commonplace."

Children 17 and younger made up most of the documented visits for paintball and air gun wounds, and the majority of injuries consisted of open wounds on the arms, legs, head and neck. About 4 percent of the visits related to eye disorders.

Chris Fermoselle, manager of NYC Paintball, said eye injuries are the biggest concern on a paintball field.

"Basically, our safety is all about wearing your mask," said Fermoselle. "Safety is number one on any paintball field, and we're always enforcing keeping the mask on even if you get shot or paint is all over it."

Players are not required to wear chest and back padding, although it is available, free of charge, for women and children at the facility. Men must pay $6 for the added cushion.

Fermoselle noted that most players will just wear a couple layers of clothing to protect from the pelts. While the game can leave players bruised and battered sometimes, he said he was surprised by the report's findings because the facility has only been host to about 20 injuries since it opened seven years ago. All players must sign a waiver noting the risk of injury and death while playing.

But experts noted that the number of injuries is likely higher than in the report because not everyone who's hurt visits the emergency room.

"The data is impressive but certainly reflects only those who … decide to seek care," said Ramsay. "Many other injuries occur in a subset of patients who, for a variety of reasons [among them: legal, lack of insurance, parental scrutiny] do not seek medical attention and thus are not reported in these statistics."

"While gun safety classes rarely are utilized for air guns in particular, they certainly would contribute to a reduction of injuries," continued Ramsay. "Proper protective clothing, head and eye gear would also significantly reduce the severity of many of these injuries."