Wrestlers and BJJ players get cauliflower ear because the constant clashing and rubbing causes their ears to be repeatedly mashed. Thankfully, grapplers can wear protective gear to greatly reduce the likelihood of developing cauliflower ear.
Over time, injuries to the ear can cause a thin layer of skin to become detached from the cartilage. This causes interference in blood flow to the ear, resulting in deformity. This can mostly be avoided by simply wearing protective headgear.
Why Wrestlers and BJJ Players Get Cauliflower Ear
Due to the close contact and extreme physicality of grappling, athletes partaking in the sport are at a high risk of developing cauliflower ear over time.
When engaged in a grappling exchange, it is common for a wrestler’s ear to violently rub up against their opponent’s body, forcing the ear to fold, twist, and contort. The constant slamming and head locking leave the ear vulnerable to torsion.
These repeated micro-traumas to the ear can cause small blood clots to form, impeding the flow of blood to the ear. It can also cause the skin to detach from the cartilage as described above fully. Some wrestlers will experience cauliflower ear on both sides, while others may only experience it on one.
A study conducted by the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine showed that of 411 wrestlers selected at random, a staggering 44% were found to have cauliflower ear. This stands as proof that cauliflower ear is extremely common among wrestlers.
Many wrestlers willfully ignore treatment for their cauliflower ear because it is seen as a sign of veterancy and is displayed with a sense of pride and honor in certain wrestling communities. However, your long-term help should be the bigger concern.
Prevent Cauliflower Ear With Proper Headgear
The best way to prevent yourself from developing cauliflower ear is to always wear headgear designed for grappling. These ear protectors come in different styles and are typically tight-fitting, as well as adjustable.
The great thing about wrestling headgear is that it can almost eliminate the risk of sustaining an injury to the ear during competition.
The drawback to it is that some wrestlers find wearing headgear to be distracting and uncomfortable. This preference for comfort can sometimes compel them to neglect the headgear part of the time. However, for headgear to be effective, it should be worn ALL of the time.
If you are new to the sport and are looking to purchase quality wrestling headgear, as we strongly recommend all to do, the Cliff Keen Fusion headgear is the top of the line in terms of safety, style, and cost.
Health Effects of Cauliflower Ear
Cauliflower ear has been shown to cause adverse health effects, the most troubling of which is the increased risk of reduced hearing and deafness.
The same study mentioned earlier by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine reported that out of the 44% of subjects who suffered from cauliflower ear, 11.5% claimed to have hearing loss. Contrast this with the 56% who did not have cauliflower ear, only 1.8% of whom claimed to have hearing loss.
This demonstrates sufficient empirical evidence to conclude that there is, in fact, a definite correlation between cauliflower ear and hearing loss. Cauliflower ear can also be very painful and uncomfortable and can make it difficult to sleep because of the ear rubbing on your pillow.
Many people will also find the visual appearance of cauliflower ear to be unappealing, which may become socially problematic for some.
That said, the best thing you can do is try and avoid cauliflower ear in the first place. Of course, there are no guarantees but wearing headgear is your best defense against developing cauliflower ear.
Grapplers Should Wear Protective Head Gear
If you are a grappler and you want to prevent cauliflower ear then you must train with protective head gear. Though you might be one of the few in class who wears them it is the best way to prevent cauliflower ear.
There are plenty of good options but the Cliff Keen Fusion headgear is pretty much a staple in wrestling and BJJ.