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Paintball: Is It Really Dangerous?

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By Sami Jo Hunter

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A competitor is crouched in position as the game is about to start. The referee calls out, “3, 2, 1… Go!” The player runs and starts shooting. A mini war has begun.

Paintball has a bad rap because of the injuries people hear about in the news, but it provides a fun, bonding experience for family and friends.

“Paintball is the fastest growing sport in the world right now,” Phil Pizzolato, co-owner of the Combat Zone paintball field, said.

Paintball has obtained the stigma of a dangerous hobby due to media coverage of misuse of weapons.  People have gotten their eyes blown out because of this game. If the correct safety precautions are taken, serious injury is highly unlikely, according to Pizzolato.

“People think that refs are put on the field to judge the games, but they are not,” Pizzolato said. “They are there to enforce safety.”

As long as the player is on the field, they must wear a mask to protect their face.  Once they leave the field, a barrel sock must be on their gun to ensure that no shots will be fired after the game is over. “Paintball is the safest sport in the world,” Pizzolato said.

Paintball shootings are not a widespread problem throughout the community, according to Officer Jay Rivera, spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. However, “one incident is one too many,” Rivera said.

“Paintball gives kids a chance to stop playing video games and play Call of Duty live,” Pizzolato said. “It lets them get exercise while having fun.”

“The worst that’s going to happen is you are going to get hit by a paintball,” Mike Reynolds, a regular paintball player, said. “When you are in the game and your adrenaline is pumping, you don’t feel it anyway.”

Chris Hoolihan, a paintball player on the national team Island Paintball, said, “It is very upsetting and it gives paintball a bad name,” when asked about the negative effect the news has on the sport.

“The adrenaline rush is like no other,” Hoolihan said. “Paintball is not just a sport, but a way of life.”  He has been playing for more than 10 years.

Not only is paintball a sport for young men, but it is for everyone.  When spending a day at the Combat Zone paintball field, one can look out and see men and women of all ages.  One can see families bonding.

“Instead of pushing people apart, it creates camaraderie,” Pizzolato said. “The teams are always changing and when they come off the field there are high fives and ‘good shot!’”

“While on the field the other players are your enemies,” Reynolds said. “But once the game ends, it is all smiles and compliments to each other. Not many sports have that bond between players.”

New players are worried about getting hit by the paintballs. “It stings for a second, like getting hit with a rubber band,” Pizzolato said.

“The sting causes the excitement,” Pizzolato said. “It’s more exciting because you don’t want to get hit. It is like the childhood game cops and robbers.”

Because it is similar to the childhood game, it brings adults back to their childhood and they enjoy playing with their kids.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing,” Pizzolato said.

Photo by Sami Jo Hunter.

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