Paintball is a competitive shooting sport that receives a lot of flack for being “aggressive” and potentially dangerous to the younger crowd. The question is, is paintball safe for kids?
Paintball is safe for kids if you use lower caliber paintball pellets, low-velocity paintball markers, and distance rules to prevent shooting from >20’ (6.1m) away. Kids also need appropriately sized headgear (helmets, goggles) and would benefit from playing against children their own age.
If you have a child under the age of 13, you’ve probably heard them begging to play paintball at least once or twice. But is it safe? To learn about the safety and facts about kids playing, read on!
Inherent Dangers of Paintball for Kids
Paintball involves shooting at an opposing team with dye-filled pellets traveling at speeds nearing 300 fps or 200 mph (322 kph).
As aggressive as the sport may sound, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality statistics discovered that paintball injuries are rare.
ThesStatistics suggest that only one in every 16,000 paintballers in the United States suffers an injury that requires an emergency room visit. Only 12 percent of those require hospitalization.
In other words, paintball injuries are uncommon, and most are minor. Other sporting activities such as surfing, cross-country running, and hunting have a statistically higher injury rate.
Even as an adult, getting struck by a paintball pellet in an unprotected part of the body will hurt. The younger the child, the lower the pain threshold. Pain factor alone, you’d assume that kids and paintball aren’t a good mix.
However, the reality is that adding safety protocols — like those in football and hockey — can make paintball safer for younger children (as young as six).
Without safety measures in place, the paintball risks for children include:
- Bruising and skin lacerations: Just like adults, paintball pellets can cause bruises, cuts, or welts.
- Eye injuries: If a child is not wearing a well-fitting protective face mask, an accidental strike on the face could cause severe eye injury.
- Ear injuries: Like the potential for eye injuries, a lack of ear protection can cause serious injuries to the ear.
- Sprained joints and fractured bones: Being a competitive sport that involves fast-paced tactics and maneuvers, accidental falls can cause sprains or fractures.
Reading the risks that a child faces when playing paintball can seem scary to a parent. However, it is essential to remember that injuries are possible regardless of the sport. Injury prevention is possible with proper gear and skill.
At What Age Is Paintball Safe for Kids?
Before you let your child play paintball, think about how old they are. Most paintball facilities will have a minimum age requirement to prevent young children from playing. It will vary based on location and the owner or operator’s discretion.
Most sites that do allow children set a minimum age of ten. Other locations allow children as young as six when special child rules are in place.
With tight supervision, proper training, and special safety rules in place, paintball can be safe for kids as young as six.
Steps To Make Paintball Safe for Kids
As we previously mentioned, it’s your role as a parent to make paintball safe for your curious child. Flat terrain without rocks, bumps, or debris can prevent them from slipping while understanding the sport. Arenas with lots of obstacles can add a unique element that doesn’t lead to injuries. To keep your child safe, make sure they play by these rules:
Use Low-Impact Paintballs
One of the most effective ways to lessen injury risks when playing paintball is using low-impact paintballs. These specially designed paintball markers fire at lower velocities than adult paintballs, usually exiting the gun at no more than 150 fps (45.72 mps). Using these half-speed paintballs will reduce the pain and bruising that comes with being struck.
In combination with lower velocities, there are paintball markers that use .50 caliber paintball pellets instead of the more common .68 caliber pellet. The smaller circumference and lesser mass lower the bruising and pain risks.
Use Proper-Fitting Safety Gear
One of the best safety precautions is proper fitting safety gear. While most parents will make an effort to make sure that their child is appropriately suited-up for a paintball match, sometimes they neglect to take into account the importance of how well-fitting the gear is.
Ill-fitting safety gear can create a false sense of security and increase the risk of injury. It is especially true when it comes to face protection. For example, oversized head and face gear can slip during play and leave sensitive areas of the face exposed. The same applies to ear and body protection as well.
That is why it’s important to buy safety gear that fits your child’s body!
Here’s a list of gear your child will need for paintball matches:
- A mask that protects their eyes, face, and ears
- Thick, protective clothing to limit the impact of a paintball
- (Optional) A vest for additional comfort and protection
- Guns, markers, and paintballs
- Hoppers to feed paintballs into the chamber
- CO2 to propel the paintballs (or compressed air depending on the type of the gun)
- Mobile, breathable, durable shoes
- Long pants that go down to the top of each boot or shoe
Enforce a Minimum Shooting Distance
Even in adult paintball matches, minimum shooting distances are popular. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of a paintball at close range knows the stinging sensation.
To minimize the risk of injury and needless pain to a child, limit the shooting distance to at least 20 feet (6.1 meters). To enforce this rule, it’s a good idea to penalize players for close-distance shots and not count the target as “out.”
Long-distance shooting limits injuries and discomfort. Children can improve their aim, practice patience, and understand paintball dynamics without risking short-distance paintball hits.
Separate Kids by Age Group
Separating kids by their age group is another way to prevent injury. While mixed play between children and adults will usually result in a safer match, combining older and younger children can increase injury rates. Older kids may get carried away or not lower their intensity when playing with younger opponents.
The presence of adults in a game will help ensure that everyone follows the safety rules. This type of self-restraining all but goes out the window when adults aren’t present!
You should keep children 6 to 7 years of age in their age group, as should children 8 to 10. When you reach the 10+ level, due to each child’s individual growth patterns, the parent needs to decide whether children ten years and older should play within a preteen group or be allowed into the 13 + level of play.
Have Adult Supervision
No matter how old your <13-year-old child is, it’s important to have at least one adult present as they play paintball. That way, you can make sure all participants are playing by the safety rules, reducing the risk of injuries.
Paintball is a sport that involves tactical maneuvering and shooting your opponent with an air-powered paintball marker. If played irresponsibly, the chances for injury can be great for adults as well as children.
However, when safety rules are applied—and amplified when children are involved—the chances for a child facing an injury while playing is statistically lower than other activities.
Children as young and six can play paintball safely provided that rules and safety gear designed for young children are always in use. Make sure they have long-lasting, tough gear.