How to Treat Paintball Bruises and Get Back Into The Game

How to Treat Paintball Bruises and Get Back Into The Game

No matter how well you play paintball, you’re bound to suffer from bruises and welts in the course of play. Here’s how to minimize the pain and maximize the fun!

Out of eight teams that started the tournament, your team is competing for the title in a zero-respawn last-man-standing woodsball tournament. You’ve won the last three games and are now competing with the other team for the championship title.

Your team takes the field and moves to its base. A few seconds later, the referee shouts, “3! 2! 1!.... GO GO GO!” and the other team of hosers starts lobbing double-tapped shots as if there were an endless supply of paint. Within 30 seconds three of your five teammates are marked and call themselves out.

You advance forward with your one remaining teammate and dig in behind a wooden dorito bunker. You’re receiving fire from three people about 15 yards in front of the bunker and don’t notice the two other people sneaking up at 4 o’clock. 

They pop around the back of the bunker and instead of issuing the courtesy of surrender, they each let off a dozen paintballs from point blank range and each paintball finds its mark on your body. Your team wins 2nd place in the tournament and, as a consolation prize, 1st place as the most bruised and welted team.

While paintball is one of the most exhilarating sports you can play, it certainly comes with the downside of stinging pain and lemon-sized bruises. If you’ve been playing for any amount of time, you know that one bad shot can keep you off the field for several days. Read on to learn about the best ways to prevent bruises from paintball!

Differences Between Paintball Bruises and Welts

Both bruises and welts from paintball are painful injuries, but there is a tangible difference between the two. Welts most often arise from shots glancing off of bare skin or skin covered with only a thin layer of fabric. 

On the other hand, bruises result from blunt-force trauma to a given area, which causes the blood vessels to break in that spot. The bruise that forms is actually blood that has coagulated under your skin. 

Generally, welts will look like the skin is raised and inflamed in a circular area where the paintball hits you. Welts will sting in the moment, but the swelling will go down within about 12 hours and the mark will disappear entirely within a few days. Bruises can initially look like welts; however, they are generally more painful, longer-lasting, and cause more skin discoloration. 

After getting hit with a paintball (and once you’re off the field), the best thing to do is apply an ice pack to keep the swelling down. Using ice will help manage the initial pain and keep the welt from getting too large. 

Paintball Wounds: Treatment and Management

Most paintball bruises and welts won’t break the skin and will only cause bruising. To manage the pain and swelling, the best thing that you can do is take NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) like Motrin (ibuprofen) or Advil (naproxen). These steps will take the pain away and keep the inflammation down.

Sometimes when you’re marked from close range, the paintball will break the skin and draw blood. If this happens, you’ll want to clean the wound with soap and water and apply some antibiotic ointment. If you plan to continue playing that day, you’ll want to ensure that the injury is bandaged well (particularly if you’re playing woodsball) so that no dirt gets in.

Once you’re away from the field, change the bandage when it gets dirty and apply antibiotic ointment until the wound has scabbed over. If it gets infected, you should seek professional medical advice from your doctor, who may need to prescribe other medications.

For those players who have finely detailed or recent tattoos, you may want to consider using body armor (or not playing) on the areas where you have your body art. Tattoos are not cheap, and a close hit from a paintball could cause the ink to bleed outside the original boundaries and ruin the tattoo.

Preventing Paintball Bruises and Welts

The easy way to prevent paintball bruises and welts is to avoid playing paintball. But, if you're reading this article, then the paintball bug has already bitten you and not playing isn’t an option!

The best way to prevent paintball bruises and welts is to wear protective gear. Many people claim that getting hit through a sweatshirt or a vest hurts more, but in our experience, that’s not true. Getting hit on bare skin is by far more painful; if you can put a couple of layers of clothes or padding between your skin and a paintball, you’re much better off.

Apart from wearing more body armor, there are a few ways you can reduce the chances of getting marked and decrease the amount of time to recuperate like…

Know the Lay of The Land

If you’re playing on a new course, take a few minutes before the match and walk around. Get to know where the bunkers are, where there’s adequate cover, and where you may be flanked.

Think about the course from the other team’s point of view and see where their defenses are strong and where they're lacking. Forming a strategy will help you get hit less and help your team win as quickly as possible.

Come Equipped

The worst thing that can happen is showing up to a game with the wrong or insufficient equipment. Make sure that you have your goggles/face mask–most places won’t even let you on the field without them. 

Apart from the necessary face mask, it is best to wear gear that protects particularly painful areas like the neck and hands. Anyone shot on the finger or neck doesn't have to learn twice to use protective gloves and a padded neck guard. Wearing body armor that protects your chest and slider shorts that protect the crotch/upper leg area is also a good idea to avoid the worst of a direct hit.

Finally, you will want to protect your arms and legs as much as possible. Knee pads will protect your knees mostly from impacts when you’re diving, sliding, and kneeling. Elbow pads extend from above the elbow until about ¾ of the way down your forearm. Since your arms and marker are normally out front when playing paintball, these are the most frequently hit areas and having protection here reduces bruising.

Stay Hydrated

Paintball is a high-intensity cardiovascular sport with a fair share of adrenaline sprinkled on top. While playing, your body undergoes massive amounts of acute stress, even before you get hit with a paintball. Staying well-hydrated won’t make the shots hurt any less, but it will prime your body for recovery and keep you from adding an unnecessary stressor (dehydration) to the sport.

When in Doubt, Rest

Disaster tends to always strike on “the last one.” So if you already feel beaten up but think you might have one more left in you, the best thing to do is sit out. Otherwise, you run the risk of one more game right now and then suffering a severe injury that could take weeks or months to heal properly. 

Welts and bruises aren’t the only opportunities for injury in paintball–you could easily twist an ankle, fall and break your arm, and damage your expensive equipment in the process. So if you’re on the fence, take a break and rest to return as quickly as possible to the field another day.


Paintball is a fun sport, but it does come with a high likelihood of mild to moderate injuries. Take the necessary precautions to avoid unnecessary injuries like wearing protective gear, scoping out the course beforehand, and knowing when to say, “stop.” If you follow these guidelines, you’ll set yourself up to avoid injuries, reduce recovery time, and ultimately win more matches. Best of luck!