Cauliflower Ear: A Grappler’s Dilemma

Cauliflower ear is a condition commonly found in wrestlers.  Since there are many parallels between wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu, cauliflower ears can often be found in Jiu-Jitsu athletes.  Some find the condition repulsive.  Some accept it as a harsh reality of the sport.  Others however embrace cauliflower ear, wearing it like a badge of honor.


Trauma to the ears causes a build up of fluid that eventually hardens if left untreated.  In time the ears take a cauliflower like appearance, thus the name.  To prevent trauma from occurring, students often can wear grappling headgear.  It covers the ears in order to protect them from impact.  Like mouth guards it offers additional protection at the cost of comfort.

There are technical reasons why some choose to not wear headgear.  At times it can limit the ability to escape.  When caught in certain submissions such as triangles, headgear may lower ones ability to pull out of the submission.  I notice very few wear them in competition.  My assumption would be most would rather be comfortable and deal with cauliflower ear later than risk getting caught in a submission.

142Fortunately there is a solution for those who don’t wear headgear.  The fluid that builds up from trauma can be drained before it hardens.  Though this procedure can be done at home, I would always recommend getting in touch with a medical professional if at all uncomfortable.

You may know someone that opts out of wearing headgear and doesn’t drain the fluid build up.  Though not uncommon, these individuals choose to wear cauliflower ear like dog tags.  For them, it represents a right of passage into a brotherhood of grapplers.  It also has the ability to serve as a warning sign to anyone wanting to pick a fight.  Most of all, it functions as a unique identifier.  Like a tattoo that only other like-minded individuals can truly understand.

What are your thoughts about Cauliflower ear?   Do you prefer to wear headgear, drain it, or consider it a Jiu-Jitsu fashion statement?

Patrick J. Flores

Gracie Barra Chino

Twitter:  patjflores


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