Training grappling has a lot of upsides like increased body awareness, improved coordination and a general boost in strength.
However, there are problems that are very unique to grapplers as well – one of these is the dreaded cauliflower ear.
The cauliflower ear is a condition where the ear deforms into something that looks like a cauliflower.
It is caused by constant friction on the outside of the ear, which then forms clots and bruises to its external surface.
It is not a pretty sight at all and the effects can be irritating if left untreated.
Practitioners of grappling sports like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo & Wrestling are susceptible to this condition as these sports are all about physically imposing your will against another human being.
Causes of Cauliflower Ear
Constant trauma causes damage to the cartilage and tissues of the ear. This results in a condition known as a hematoma.
Interestingly enough, hematoma has this bizarre characteristic in that more present it is, the more it encourages the growth of additional cartilage.
The added cartilage then forms into clumps and creates the distinct look that we normally see in grapplers’ ears.
Effects, Prevention & Treatment
Cauliflower ear is obviously not a fatal condition, but it can be hard to treat once there’s big damage done to the area.
The big issue with getting cauliflower ear is the fact that hearing will definitely be compromised as the clump will cover most of the outer ear canal.
The good thing about all of this is that it’s relatively easy to spot as the deformation of the ear can take a while. As the old saying goes – “Prevention is always better than cure“.
It is a good idea to wear extra protection while engaging in combat sports such as BJJ if you are the type that wants to have normal looking ears.
There are a lot of 3rd party companies that specialize in making ear guards and it can be purchased at reasonable prices.
It’s very typical to treat cauliflower ear because compromised hearing is always annoying, however, there have been cases where some guys actually WANT to get cauliflower ear!
These contrarians bruise up their ears on purpose with the hope of getting a good-sized hematoma. Please do not be one of these guys.
The way to treat cauliflower ear is by draining the hematoma to help restore the flow of blood. This is only one step in the process as there are times when draining the ear is not enough.
Doctors also stitch the area with a bandage to prevent the build-up of hematoma. It is imperative to apply an antibiotic to the affected area.
The cauliflower ear is just one of the things that make Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu unique.
While the condition is annoying to have, it’s actually very easy to spot, prevent and treat if you know what’s to expect.
The key, in my opinion, is to always be aware of what’s happening to your body so that things like this are managed appropriately.