For millennia, the cauliflower ear has been a symbol of wrestlers, grapplers, and fighters. Some wear their mangled ears with pride, while others do everything in their power to prevent the condition.
One of the best ways to prevent cauliflower ears is by using headgear, which is what wrestlers often do in the training room and competition. But can you also wear headgear in BJJ competitions?
Headgear is not allowed in any BJJ competitions. Even the best models specifically designed for jiu-jitsu can still obstruct some movements and influence certain positions, which is why headgear is banned in BJJ tournaments.
This is one of the reasons most people don’t use BJJ earguards, even in the gym. If you want to have cauliflower ears, none of this likely interests you, but if you don’t want your hearing organs deformed, do you know how to prevent it?
Wrestlers have been using headgear for ages in the training room and competitions. But in BJJ, you cannot wear headgear under any of the major rulesets or organizations.
This means that while you can use it in training to prevent cauliflower ear, you won’t be able to do so when chasing after a medal, and the ears will be exposed precisely at the most intense moments.
The other problem is that we get used to each piece of equipment we train with, and even the best BJJ headgear still changes the game.
Training escapes from headlocks, chokes, and other similar scenarios with headgear will make the ears safe, but the feel is different. So most people prefer not to use headgear because they can get used to it and then underperform in competition when the head is suddenly bare.
What Is Cauliflower Ear
The answer about headgear in BJJ tournaments is clear and straightforward, but the issue of cauliflower ears is not, and it deserves more attention.
A cauliflower ear is a deformity to the ear caused by blunt force trauma, which gives it a distinct appearance likened to the plant cauliflower.
The condition occurs after a trauma separates the skin from the cartilage, which disrupts the blood supply and results in a hematoma.
But unlike in other body parts, the blood in the ear has nowhere to go and gradually hardens and deforms, giving the ear the distinct cauliflower look.
Many wrestlers, BJJ athletes, judokas, MMA fighters, and even boxers are proud owners of cauliflower ears because the nature of grappling places the ears in constant danger of being hit, smashed, or rubbed, all of which can break the cartilage and separate the skin from it.
When the contusion happens, the initial symptoms are like every other hematoma: swelling, redness, bruising, and, most of all, pain.
There are some severe cases of cauliflower ears, and you must know they are not the result of a single incident. Usually, a blood clot is small and does not produce a significant deformity, but repeated and accumulated incidents gradually create big lumps.
Unlike other injuries, though, cauliflower ears are not considered harmful by everyone.
Many BJJ practitioners, wrestlers, and fighters proudly wear their cauliflower ears as battle scars and intentionally do not treat them. If we leave aesthetics aside, a cauliflower ear is usually not a serious condition.
But with the accumulation of more and more deformities, some cases become more extreme, and they can impair hearing, which is a serious problem. Some people have their ears so deformed they can’t wear earbuds or headphones.
For many non-professional fighters, having cauliflower ears is undesirable in everyday life and at work. For them, the question is how to avoid the unwanted vegetable-named condition.
Can You Avoid Cauliflower Ear From BJJ
There are two main ways not to have cauliflower ears if you are in BJJ. You can either prevent them or treat them as soon as the initial incident happens.
Well, there is a third option for some people who have unbreakable ears and will never face an issue even after decades on the mats, but this is something you are either born with or not, so let’s stick to what we have control over.
Not getting into situations that can cause cauliflower ears while on the mats is a fairytale, so this is useless advice often thrown around.
The only thing you can do to prevent hematomas from forming in the first place is to wear headgear. While there are some excellent BJJ-specific products, there are some problems with ear guards, and we’ll cover those in the next section of the article.
The other way to prevent cauliflower ears from forming is by treating the contusions as soon as they happen. Cauliflower ears form with recovery, so in the initial stages, the normal blood flow in the ear can be restored and the condition prevented.
The most effective way is for the fluids to be drained by a doctor before they harden. Then, a bandage or some other type of pressure should be applied to prevent refilling.
Then, there are special products preventing the forming of cauliflower ears separated into two types. The first is magnets like the Caulibuds, which are applied to the ear as soon as the swelling starts.
The magnets apply pressure on both sides of the ear, preventing the area from filling with blood. They can also be used to provide compression after draining by a doctor.
The other product is similar in function and applies pressure to the ear, preventing the hematoma from forming and hardening. But instead of magnets, it uses a splint. The ear splint is first molded while the ear is healthy and then applied after the swelling starts or after draining.
Some people are much more susceptible to cauliflower ear forming than others and prefer training with BJJ headgear. Most practitioners don’t compete in the first place, so the ban does not concern them. Good ear protectors can also help you stay on the mats when you have an ear injury.
Not so long ago, our only options were designed for wrestling, but thankfully, there are much better for jiu-jitsu today. The problem with wrestling headgear for jiu-jitsu is it’s too big, changing chokes and choke escapes, and it usually has plastic or other abrasive materials.
BJJ-specific headgear is similar but better for our needs. They are made from softer and lighter materials like neoprene or nylon and have a tighter, less obstructive fit. The Gold BJJ model is the best on the market with its simplicity and features specifically designed for jiu-jitsu.
Other softshell models will also do the job regardless of whether they are explicitly advertised for BJJ or wrestling. Just stay away from hard shell models because they are just not suitable for BJJ.
No BJJ ruleset allows the use of headgear in competitions. This is unfortunate for those prone to developing cauliflower ears, but their solace is that no one will stop you from using BJJ-specific earguards in training.
For those of us who don’t want to use headgear but also don’t want cauliflower ears, the options are to immediately treat the swelling after the incident by using magnets, ear splints, going to a doctor to drain the fluid, or better yet, a combination of these methods.