Last Updated on January 23, 2022 by Stephen Paul Robertson
Many sports stars are known to have “weird ears”–a term that the public has attributed to cauliflower ears. This is because the patients with this medical condition have disfigured cartilage that looks rather irregular. Many will complain about the agony this causes, while others think of it as a sign of pride.
Lots of questions surround this topic. What is cauliflower ear? How do you treat it? What are its symptoms? What sport causes cauliflower ear? Can you prevent it from occurring?
Being properly acquainted with the answers to these questions will help you avoid cauliflower ears altogether. So, allow us to explain all you need to know!
What is Cauliflower Ear?
Cauliflower ear is a condition during which the exterior section of your ear gets deformed due to dead cartilage. It occurs upon application of blunt trauma, which manages to hinder the blood circulation of a person’s ear. Clots are formed in vessels or other sections of the ear. As a result, little to no blood is flown to the cells of the cartilage. They receive no nutrients, oxygen, or water and thus, cannot respire. Over time, they slowly die, causing the part to become tough and fibrous. That section of the ear becomes pale as no blood flows there. This shriveled and hardened tissue looks a lot like the rough surface of cauliflowers, giving the illness its name.
The medical terminology given to cauliflower ear is an auricular hematoma. The auricle–also known as pinna–is the outer section of the ear where the condition occurs. Hematoma, on the other hand, is the packet of blood that forms between the perichondrium and ear cartilage. This happens towards the beginning of the condition and causes excruciating pain and swelling.
After the death of the cartilage, you cannot really do much to revert back to your old ear. The chances of getting an ear infection are gravely increased, and even more so if your ear is pierced there. This type of infection is more commonly known as auricular perichondritis.
Besides the application of trauma, cauliflower at times also occurs due to inflammation. This is a rare case scenario and is usually the result of relapsing perichondritis.
Sports That Cause Cauliflower Ear
As we mentioned before, blunt trauma is the usual cause of cauliflower ears. So, anything that would cause a large impact to be aimed at your ears can be the reason behind this condition. Here are some sports that will increase your risk of getting cauliflower ears.
Wrestling & Boxing
As you could have guessed, wrestlers and boxers have an increased risk of getting cauliflower ears. This is because punches and kicks are often aimed there, resulting in blood pooling up in one spot instead of flowing to the cartilage. UFC fighters and MMA wrestlers thus, often have their ears heavily disfigured. Some renowned examples include Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Leslie Smith, etc.
Rugby is a sport that involves players violently colliding with the members of the opponent team. This results in their head and ear facing blunt trauma, increasing the chances of receiving several injuries. Cauliflower ear is one such injury. Graham Rowntree, Phil Vickery, Tom Robertson, etc. are some sports stars who received cauliflower ears from playing rugby.
Jujutsu is a famous type of Japanese martial art that includes combat. While performing defense tricks, players can apply huge force to each other’s ears. The odds of getting cauliflower ears are elevated.
Water polo is yet another sport that includes a lot of aggressiveness between opposing team members. Players smashing onto each other is common and so the ear can easily encounter blunt trauma. Cauliflower ear is hence a common injury amongst water polo players.
These are some common sports associated with cauliflower ear. If you take part in any of these games, then make sure to observe your ears for symptoms. Cauliflower ears should be treated as fast as possible.
Symptoms of Cauliflower Ear
Initial symptoms of cauliflower ear mostly include swelling of the ear and pain. It also becomes red, indicating that your ear has been bruised. As these symptoms are similar to the hurt one feels from punches, they mostly go ignored, resulting in the case worsening further.
When your ear’s situation declines, bigger symptoms like constant ringing in the ear and damage to hearing occurs. The patient’s face swells up and they get painful headaches that blur the vision. At times like this, when the ear is punched during the match, it bleeds excessively.
So, people involved in dangerous sports should never turn a blind eye to pain in the ear. If a cauliflower ear is not immediately treated, a huge sum needs to be wasted for cosmetics surgeries. Remember that the recovering period is also very large, so you might have to take a huge break from your career.
How to Prevent Cauliflower Ear
Cauliflower ears can be prevented by wearing headgears that are compatible with your respective sports. Wrestlers and boxers can wear ear guards, which form a shock-absorbing shell around your ears.
Rugby players can wear scrum caps, which not only protect their ear but also the rest of the head. Decreased energy is transferred to the ear and, thus, chances of getting cauliflower ear are cut down.
Water polo players, on the other hand, have the option of wearing a water polo cap that has an ear guard fit onto it. The rest is made of fabric and helps in keeping the hair away.
All of these do a decent job at protecting your ears, but what stands out is an ear splint. Ear splints are molds that specialists make. This acts similarly to how retainers do and helps in maintaining the ear’s shape. It assists in continuing proper blood circulation in the ear and also quickens the healing process. Although ear splints are rather expensive, they are the most efficient at preventing cauliflower ear.
Treatments of Cauliflower Ear
Initially, after noticing swelling, it is best to apply ice to your ear for about 15 minutes. This will noticeably reduce the pain until you can consult a professional.
If the doctor you have consulted points out that you have cauliflower ears, then it is very likely that they will direct you to the draining process. During this, they make a little hole in the site where blood is packed and drain it. This is to try and maintain a healthy blood flow. Once this is done, they will bandage the ear and prescribe medicines to prevent ear infections of any kind. At this point, you might even be asked to take a rest for several days. You will also be asked to attend regular checkups during which you might have to carry out the drainage process again.
If draining does not work and your cartilage has already started scarring like cauliflowers, you will have to get surgery. Otoplasty is a form of corrective surgery that will be able to take your ear back to its original condition.
In an otoplasty, the doctor will use anesthetics–general or local–and cut open the back section of your ear. Some of the dead cartilage will be shaved off and then they will apply stitches to retain the previous appearance.
Such cosmetic surgeries are pretty expensive to carry out. Patients will also have to rest for about six weeks before going with their daily life activities
Do all fighters get cauliflower ears?
Many fighters have cauliflower ears, but not all. Therefore, it shows that if you wear safety gear and have your ear regularly checked up, you can avoid getting this painful condition. You should also take necessary precautions at every sign of swelling and pain.
What is the best wrestling headgear?
Wrestling headgears produced by Cliff Keen Athletic are known to be the best. They were the first to invent ear guards and still manage to rule the market. If you are looking for the best wrestling headgears, check this out.
How long does it take to get a cauliflower ear?
One can get cauliflower ear within 5 to 10 days. Hence, experts will always emphasize the need to get your ear checked by a professional quickly upon swelling. That way, you can avoid this unlucky condition.
Can you reverse cauliflower ear?
Cauliflower ears were originally known to be irreversible. However, due to the introduction of corrective surgery, one can now have the cauliflower ear look like normal ones.
Can cauliflower ear explode?
Yes, cauliflower ear can explode, causing severe bleeding. When a blood packet or hematoma is formed, if force is applied to the ear again, it might burst.
You now know what sports cause cauliflower ears. So, if you are involved in these games, make sure you take all the preventions that we mentioned. Check for all the symptoms mentioned in our article after every fight and regularly consult with your doctor. As prevention is better than cure, try putting on headgear during most fights. Have a fun and safe fight!
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Paul, a graduate from the University of California, has been a Safety Advisor for over 5 years in USA. Along with his other 2 partners, who are professional bikers, he has been the chief of the headsafetyguard.com to create mass awareness on an often neglected issue: HEAD SAFETY