Whether you’re a fan or a grappling practitioner, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen fighters with swollen ears.
This is one of the most common damages that fighters go through. If you’ve been listening to commentators or reading up on what it is, you know that this is called cauliflower ears.
Cauliflower ears are common, particularly in grappling disciplines such as Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
It might make you look tough, but cauliflower ears are more bothersome than you think. In this article, you’ll learn more about this common condition and how to avoid cauliflower ears in BJJ.
Table of Contents
What Is Cauliflower Ear?
Let’s first talk about what it looks like. It’s described as having your ears permanently swollen. In severe cases of cauliflower ears, the athlete’s entire ear looks like a chunk of meat. It feels tender to touch at first, but eventually, a cauliflower ear can become harder if left untreated.
It’s caused when the cartilage in your ears starts to bend extensively. When the cartilage bends, blood and other fluids fill the space between the gaps, and this can cause the ear to swell up.
Once that swells up, the fluids have no way of getting back out, thus resulting in a permanently swollen ear.
What Causes Cauliflower Ear In BJJ?
Boxers rarely have cauliflower ears. But this is a very common phenomenon for Wrestlers, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, and MMA fighters.
A strong blow to the ear can cause cauliflower ears. However, it’s also caused by friction. In a sport like Jiu-Jitsu, your head will be pressed against your opponent on more than one occasion.
If you’re paying attention in class, it’s not a great idea to press your forehead directly on your opponent. Instead, you press down with the side of your head while holding a position or taking it down. This prevents your opponent from locking in a choke while giving you more control.
The downside of using your head for control
The downside is that your ears will take the brunt of the damage. When you shoot for a double leg, for instance, your ears will bump hard on your opponent’s body.
When you try to hold a position in side control, your ears will also grind against your opponent’s body.
It doesn’t even have to be in competition too. When you do drills during training, your ear can even take the same amount of damage.
The impact or the friction doesn’t have to be hard. As long as there are repeated impacts or friction on your ears, cauliflower ears will happen.
These actions will directly result in damage to your ears eventually. This is why cauliflower ears are more common in grappling disciplines.
It happens in striking disciplines too. But in Boxing, for instance, punches are mainly aimed at the jaw or the face. The ears don’t get hit that often.
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How To Avoid Cauliflower Ear In BJJ – Tips
We won’t tell you to avoid impact on your ears. For Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, or MMA, that’s completely unavoidable. The good news is that there are other ways of preventing the problem without having to compromise your fighting style.
In training, make sure to wear the appropriate headgear. The best would be the traditional Wrestling headgear. Wrestlers wear the ones to protect their ears from getting damaged.
This can be used in Jiu-Jitsu as well. But remember that this headgear isn’t allowed in most competitions.
The good thing about cauliflower ears is that they don’t happen instantly. They start as swelling in your ear area. If you’re able to remedy this issue early on, the fluids won’t be stuck, the area won’t harden, and your ears will be safe.
Here’s how you can treat it.
- Get a syringe.
- Disinfect the swollen part of your ear with a piece of cotton and alcohol.
- Use the needle to drain the fluids out of your ear. You can do it yourself or ask a friend to do it for you.
- Press the swollen area while using the syringe to drain the ear. This will help you get all of the fluids out.
- Remove the needle and disinfect the area again.
If you can, we suggest having the ears drained professionally. Here’s a deeper look at the process as done on Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu.
The process is painful, but it does help you avoid the problems that come with cauliflower ears.
Cauliflower ears can lead to more serious injuries down the line, so it’s better to get rid of the problem quickly rather than get sidelined for a more extended period.
The key to preventing cauliflower ears is fast action. Let’s admit that as Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, one thing we hate more than getting submitted is rest.
After getting our ears hit, we don’t look for treatment. We continue training until class is over. This is a bad habit that you should do away with as it will only cause more damage to your ears.
Here are a few more important tips:
Don’t Go Too Hard On Drills
Drills are made for practicing techniques. It’s pointless to go hard.
In fact, you’re causing even more problems to yourself if you go hard during drill sessions. You can prevent injuries to your ears and other parts of your body by going lighter.
Rest When Needed
As we’ve said before, don’t forget to rest once your ears start to swell up. Let your ear heal naturally.
Get The Suited ear protection Gear
Investing in the right gear can prevent many problems down the line. A good headgear can cost around $30-$50, which is cheaper than a hospital visit for treatment.
What Happens To Cauliflower Ears If They Are Untreated?
Your ear cartilage will contract on itself because of cauliflower ears. Once the cartilage dies, the deformity becomes permanent.
Some surgeries can help fix the problem, but the process and the expenses are far more extensive than treating the situation quickly in the first place.
It’s not just that, however. Cauliflower ears can lead to even more significant problems down the drain.
Once the ear becomes hard and filled with fluids, you can think of it as an over-inflated basketball. What happens to an inflated ball once it gets hit with a strong impact?
One of the most severe injuries caused by cauliflower ears happened to Leslie Smith in UFC 180 during her fight with Jessica Eye.
At one point in the fight, Jessica lands a solid right to Leslie’s ear. This caused the ear to explode mid-fight literally. The bout had to be stopped due to the seriousness of the injury.
This is just one case of cauliflower ears exploding. It has happened a lot already, and you can bet that the complications that arise from this are more severe than they look.
Some fighters and Jiu-Jitsu practitioners also say that cauliflower ears can be hard to compete with at times. The area feels tender and painful with more damage, so they suggest getting treatment as soon as possible.
How To Avoid Cauliflower Ear In BJJ – Final Word
Cauliflower ears might look like battle scars to some, but it does cause many problems down the line.
The good thing about cauliflower is that they aren’t something you have to deal with permanently.
If you want to compete in more Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and attend more classes, treat your cauliflower ear immediately, so you don’t get sidelined.