What Matters? The Implant or the Woman?

Laurie and Debbie say:

We first came across this story at the article at the link, a blog post on the L.A. Times site. Newspaper blog posts are paid journalism.

A British woman’s breast implant reportedly exploded after she was hit in the chest by a paintball, which can travel at 190 mph.

picture (from the back of her head) of a woman aiming a paintball gun

UK Paintball has now adjusted  its policies accordingly. “We respectfully ask that any ladies with surgical breast implants notify our team at the time of booking,” according to a statement on its website. “You will be given special information on the dangers of paintballing with enhanced boobs and asked to sign a disclaimer. You will also be issued with extra padding to protect your implants while paintballing.

Yes, their official statement says “enhanced boobs.”

What struck us immediately was that the L.A. Times blog piece (by Amina Khan, who appears to be a regular science blog writer for the newspaper) doesn’t say anything about what happened to the woman. Did she die? Did she suffer minor injuries and go home with no problem? Was it something in between? Googling around yields a little more information. ABC News says that the paintball company says “the woman is likely to make a full recovery.” Well, that sounds fairly serious, but it’s hardly detailed.

The International Business Times says: “Apparently, this injury could end up costing the woman almost $5,000.” That might not sound astonishing to American readers, but in the United Kingdom, spending that kind of money out of pocket for a medical issue is far less common. Again, a  serious comment, but hardly detailed.

Various articles talk about the safety issues regarding paintball and/or the safety issues regarding breast implants. We did a little research ourselves, and it would appear that while some dangers of breast implants have been exaggerated (such as the unsupported belief that there’s a link between breast implants and fibromyalgia), in fact the gel implants don’t have a long life (more than half need attention within 15 years) and the FDA recommends an MRI once every 2-3 years, to be paid for out of the patient’s pocket. (Minimum MRI prices in the U.S. are about $1500.) We wonder how many women with implants are getting those MRIs? And how many end up with either major health problems and/or even more major expenses if they don’t get them.

But regardless of how you feel about breast implants, and how you feel about paintball, it seems clear that everyone is focused on the implant, some people are focused on other breast implant stories, some people are focused on paintball and the company’s response, but no one is very interested in what has happened to the woman.

And here we would have thought that this was her story.