Two wrestlers without headgear to prevent cauliflower ear

Wrestling season is well underway for many high schools and colleges. If you’re a fan of technical prowess and intense matches, this sport may be for you. However, what wrestlers and other grapplers are not a fan of is cauliflower ear. What is this condition, and what can be done to treat it?

What exactly is cauliflower ear?

The outer portion of the ear, the auricle, is comprised of cartilage. When this cartilage is separated from the outer skin, blood can fill this area and cause the tissue to become firm. Cauliflower ear is the result, leading to an uneven, swollen, and overall deformed appearance.

How is cauliflower ear formed?

Cauliflower ear is caused by blunt trauma to the auricle creating the separation from the cartilage. This is predominantly found in combat and contact sports where the ear is prone to impact. For wrestlers and submission grapplers, headlocks or takedowns against hard areas like the hip can create this trauma. Boxers can also receive cauliflower ear from repeated punches to the auricle.

How is cauliflower ear treated?

Treating cauliflower ear before the tissue becomes rigid is crucial to prevent deformity. A trained professional such as an ENT physician can drain excessive blood and fluids from the affected area. Dr. Nicholas Stowell, a CEENTA otolaryngologist at our Concord office, affirms this strategy. "An ENT specialist is the place to go for injuries of the ear and can provide the comprehensive care that your ear needs."

After draining, the area will need to have constant pressure applied to it to ensure that it does not fill up again overnight. Magnets, soft clamps, or ear splints can be used to maintain that pressure and keep the ear’s shape intact.

If the ear becomes rigid, surgery may be required to fix the deformity.

How can you prevent cauliflower ear?

Wrestlers and grapplers can prevent cauliflower ear by wearing protective headgear during competition. Most versions available provide coverage just over the ear to prevent trauma and impact while maintaining access to sound. Boxers can use similar protection in practice, with some amateur leagues allowing it to be used for contested bouts.

While some athletes may view cauliflower ear as a “badge of honor” for their sport, it can cause noticeable hearing difficulties depending on the area. If you or your athlete have developed cauliflower ear, get your ear back in shape with CEENTA. Our otolaryngologists are specialists in the ear’s unique structure and can treat this condition across multiple offices in North and South Carolina, including Dr. Stowell. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Stowell at our Concord office today to keep cauliflower ear down for the count. 

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our ENT doctors in North and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.


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