As a brief description of why and how it happens, blunt trauma or repeated abrasive rubbing to the ears causes the cartilage to shear away from the skin. Inflammation occurs and blood and fluid fills the area in which the ear was damaged. It is can be painful but wouldn’t be much more of an annoyance. If not treated though, this swollen mass will harden and then your ear will resemble a cauliflower hence the name.
The question remains though: is it inevitable? It seems that there are people that are less susceptible to it and even some legit black belts that don’t have it. This could be for a couple of reasons. Some people have theorized that this may be partly due to genetics or some people just took very good care of their ears, used headgear and/or rested when their ears were sore.
However, if you do BJJ or any type of grappling be it judo, wrestling, etc. you will probably get cauliflower ear to some extent. So in my humble opinion, the answer to the question is yes. Just accept it. Think of it as a badge of honor, a war wound, a testament to your hard work and persistence. If you don’t want your ears to look like there’s a fetus growing inside, just wear some headgear and call it a day.
I have a theory that it may be also due to the way you roll. For instance, if your gym does a lot of wrestling takedowns that requires your head to contact your opponent frequently, you may be more susceptible to it. Also, if you play a lot of top game trying to pass and smash, and control with your head, you may be more susceptible. It seems like the jiu jiterios that play a lot of guard, even at higher belts, have less cauliflower ear. But, of course, with time, everything will catch up to you.
I want to preface this by saying there is NO substitute for seeking professional medical treatment and treating cauliflower ear at home is at your own risk.
So, the common thing for people to do is drain the ear with a syringe and needle combo at home. You need to thoroughly disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol or antiseptic before you drain it. Make sure you have clean fingers and it wouldn’t hurt to shower beforehand if you just got done rolling. Also, don’t reuse syringes. These are all precautions for getting nasty infections that may make your ear worse than it already is.
The first time I was afflicted with the cauliflower ear, I went to Walmart and CVS to try and buy syringes. They both denied me either for the fact that I wasn’t a diabetic nor did I have a prescription. Finally, at Walgreens, I had to explain to the pharmacist what I was trying to do and that I wasn’t some heroin junkie trying to shot drugs up my veins. Luckily, she obliged and I got 5 for 35 cents apiece.
The next step is to carefully stick the needle into the softest, most-bulge-ist part. Make sure the hole of the needle is all the way in. Then, slowly pull on the pump portion of the syringe to suck the fluid out. When you think you’ve got everything, remove the needle and dab and hold some clean cotton over the puncture. It may still bleed a little.
The next step is to keep the ear compressed so that the fluid doesn’t fill it back up. People have used wraps, bandages, and even clips. I had to re-drain my ear several times after my first bout because I didn’t compress it.
Here’s a YouTube video on home treatment for cauliflower ear or read the BJJ Analytics post here.
The accepted professional method of treatment is called bolstering. It is a relatively straight forward surgical procedure that a licensed and specialized medical doctor can perform. The following is a passage from WebMD:
“A doctor can accomplish this by making a small incision and draining accumulating blood or removing a clot and preventing further bleeding. He or she may need to reconnect tissues using stitches and apply a special bandage to put pressure on the area. This pressure dressing may need to stay in place for several days to a week. The site will require monitoring for signs of infection or signs that additional treatment may be needed. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics.”
An ER doctor may be able to do this if they happen to be an on-call otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat doctor). If not, then you may need to schedule an appointment with one as they are qualified to do this procedure. Regular ER docs may be able to drain your ear though.
How will having gnarly ears make you feel?
It all depends on your perspective. Alan Jouban is a UFC welterweight, has some decently deformed ears, and is a well-paid model. You may think it makes you look badass. It’s like wearing your BJJ belt without wearing it.
It may make you feel ugly. If so, at the first signs of cauliflower ear, just rest and wear headgear. It’s a simple solution. If you think headgear looks stupid and you complain about cauliflower ear, just stop training. There’s no hope for you. Kidding, not kidding.
Hopefully, this has been an informative article for you. If you have symptoms of cauliflower ear, just embrace it. Keep rolling and implement one of the solutions mentioned. You don’t have to live with it and if it doesn’t bother you, more power to you. Oss.
What are your thoughts on cauliflower ear? Discuss your opinion in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!