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Old 07-01-2010, 09:12 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The physics of paintball...sort of

A few days ago a member posed a question as to whether he suffered a concussion from taking a hit to the noggin with a few paint ball. Many on here offered advice and shared stories of some of their battle wounds and it got me to thinking. I asked a friend of mine who's an engineer to help me with the numbers. Now before I go any farther here Ill post my disclaimer. The data here is open to debate on many levels. I tried to do a very simple comparison of things and there are gaps in my theory....on to the scientific goodies..
I posed the question of how hard does a paintball impact an object. I told him to use the numbers of a paintball traveling at 280 ft/sec a distance of 20 ft weighing 3.2 grams. And that a concussion can be caused to a human being if the head experiences anywhere from 50-75 g's. Using this he determined the following. If you use a brain size of 1400 grams and an acceleration threshold of 75 g's, you come out with concussion occuring at 3.36 x 10^6 Newtons of force.
A paint ball at 280 ft/sec and 3.2 grams comes out to 4.5 x 10^6 Newtons. Turns out 280 ft/sec is a heck of a speed. So it looks on the surface that a paint ball should pretty easily be able to cause a concussion. However, its a little fuzzier than that.

The paintball does not transfer all it's force into the brain. It only transmits a percentage of it. If we were talking a steel ball bearing traveling at the same speeds, obviously the damage would be much greater, however with a paintball being so mushy you would be doing well to achieve 50% or less. Because the paintball is actually either striking the skull or the mask which is going to absorb most of if not all the force of impact before it transfers to the brain. The only way to determine exactly how hard that paintball is going to hit would be to fire it into a scale that can record its results, thereby telling you how many pounds of force the paintball transfered into the scale (which would be standing in for the head).
Now of course theres room for changes to this theory. Like increasing the velocity or decreasing the distance from which the shot is taken. Or if taking a shot to the temple changes the force needed. However even with those changes it still seems highly unlikely that a shot from a field legal paintball gun will strike the head at a significant enough force to cause a concussion. My buddy theorized that a paintball may need to be moving in excess of 560 ft/sec to cause a brain injury but thats just a theory. This was all just done in fun to satisfy my curiosity. Im sure there are folks out there who have confirmed concussions ( meaning went to the doctor and had a CT scan done) from playing paint ball. But I could not find a refernce on the net that said 100% that yes I was shot in the head with a paintball and it concussed me.
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Old 07-01-2010, 09:18 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Don't forget to add the force caused by the reaction to the hit(flinching).

As for a concussions playing paintball. I had some symptoms of a slight concussion after a big game where I was shot multiple times by multiple people in the head as I was leaving my cover.
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Old 07-01-2010, 11:40 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by ta2maki View Post
Don't forget to add the force caused by the reaction to the hit(flinching).

As for a concussions playing paintball. I had some symptoms of a slight concussion after a big game where I was shot multiple times by multiple people in the head as I was leaving my cover.
not likely going to matter. if instinctual movements hindered us in combat environments we'd already be extinct.

i have been thinking. maybe it is a stun from the loud crack along with a simultaneous change of vision from the surrounding to a solid color of the fill. like a flash bang grenade.
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Old 07-02-2010, 12:40 AM   #4 (permalink)
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hum thats a tough one as I have seen 2 players in my time take temple shots (1-2) BALLS all running at 300fps or there abouts (I guess what I am saying is nothing like 320-400) and get knocked out cold!

both had lasting effects a bit sick, wobbly legs but where fine in a few hours, so yes I woudl say that a paintball could give you mild concussion.
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Old 07-02-2010, 06:36 PM   #5 (permalink)
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That is interesting.

There was the well publicized event where Lasoya was using an illegal cheat mode during a amatuer tournament, and gave someone a concusion when he shot someone in the head 10 times. (they were knocked out, then sent to the hospital. Later fully recovered).

Lasoya was banned for a year or so. Does 10 shots make a difference to 1 shot? Its the each shot is the same amount of energy, so is it a cumulative effect? or does the brain "reset" after each?
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Old 07-02-2010, 06:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm no physician but I would say that multiple shots would add up, at least when in quick succession like from an electro.
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Old 07-02-2010, 06:53 PM   #7 (permalink)
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As the guy cited in the original post


The ER doctor stated it is -extremely- unlikely a single paintball shot would cause anything. He claimed it was more because of my posture. When the shot hit, my instinctual reaction was to 'reflex' my head straight back, and apparently this did something to my brain stem. (His logic)


EDIT - Also, I -was- wondering about the math behind it, I just lack the skills to figure it out. Its neat to see somebody else did.
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Old 07-02-2010, 07:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I shot a camp counselor at a paintball camp in the head and gave him a mild concussion... With one shot and it was chronoing about 280fps
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Old 07-03-2010, 12:24 AM   #9 (permalink)
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iv had times where i had taken hits to the noggin and been a bit wobbly legged
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Old 07-03-2010, 10:09 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm not sure about the overall cumulative effect. I would assume that even multiple shots would not multiply the force generated to cause significant damage. Even though it's gonna hurt like hell. Take into account that each round strikes individually no matter how fast the marker is. There is still a delay before the next round impacts. Albeit a fraction of a second but a delay none the less. The force from the first round will have already begun to dissipate when subsequent shots impact. Just a guess. I'm trying to figure out how to test this to get actual numbers rather then just speculating based on paper calculations.
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