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BJJ Cauliflower Ears: 5 Ways to Prevent Cauliflower Ear

cauliflower ear

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You probably have seen your favorite MMA fighter with a gnarly-looking ear right? Most people who participate in some kind of martial art, whether that is boxing, MMA, judo, or BJJ, may develop cauliflower ear. Let’s dive into what cauliflower ear is and some ways you can go about preventing it from happening!

prevent cauliflower ears bjj


Cauliflower ear is a deformity of the ear canal that may occur after injury to the ear.

Cauliflower ear may occur when blood that collects in the ear canal after an injury isn’t drained properly or becomes infected. Common causes include injuries from sports, such as wrestling, boxing, or mixed martial arts . Truthfully, it’s not as gross as it sounds (or looks). All that our ear is made of is cartilage so when that cartilage gets damaged, blood flows to it making it look a little more puffy or sensitive to touch.

Some people may get turned off when they initially see it but if you get it in the martial arts world, it is a badge of honor.

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You earn cauliflower ear by putting time on the mats (and by not wearing headgear lol). The ear deformity is common amongst almost most grapplers that compete at high levels. Your instructor probably has it and all the people in the MMA circuit have it. Treating cauliflower ears is fairly simple. If you get it, to not irritate the damage further it is best to wear headgear or drain the fluid that is present.

When you are rolling around and getting violent with people on the mats injuries are bound to happen. This is just one of those things. The way you can get cauliflower ear in BJJ is by the Gi rubbing against your ear too hard or by someone accidentally hitting your head/ear area. You will know when you are starting to get it. Your ears will be sore for days on end and they may be pretty sensitive to touch. When people continue to touch or damage the ear while in this stage the deformity can worsen so be careful (as much as you can be).

Cauliflower ear treatment is as simple as it gets. Wear head gear and you will be able to prevent it from happening.

cauliflower ears bjj

Ways To Prevent Cauliflower Ear

You can prevent cauliflower ear by not training martial arts entirely or wearing headgear while training. Headgear can be uncomfortable to wear at times but nonetheless, if you do not want your ear to look mangled it will have to be the sacrifice you make.

How to Avoid Cauliflower Ear BJJ:

  1. Don’t train

  2. Wear headgear

  3. When you get sore ears ice them

  4. Take a break if your ears start to get sore

  5. Use Headgear

  6. (Bonus) If you get the deformity, drain it, and use magnets (Or EarSplintz)

What are the signs and symptoms of cauliflower ear?

You will know when you are starting to get cauliflower ear or not. Typically the first sign that your outer ear is damaged is redness in the area and swelling around the area. When the cartilage is damaged from some type of way it can get very sensitive to touch. A simple gesture of resting your head on a pillow when cauliflower ear is starting to appear can be irritating.

Now it is important to notify the difference in symptoms of cauliflower ear. When the ear is initially damaged it may swell. In cases of serious trauma to the ear cartilage blood will rush to the ear causing a blood clot, better known as an ear auricular hematoma. Managing auricular hematoma is fairly simple in most cases. It is important if you are having a large amount of swelling to go seek treatment immediately. If left untreated you are at increased risk to suffer from intense pain. Draining the blood from the ear with a sanitized syringe is recommended.

After draining the ear or the swollen area, the cartilage that is left to harden is known as the cauliflower ear. There is typically a three-step process of how the injury occurs:

  • First: Trauma to the ear occurs

  • Second: The ear is swollen, tender, or red in the damaged area. Accumulated blood in any area of the ear can be drained with a syringe. Some wrestling coaches know how to do it themselves but it is always advised to seek a medical professional who knows what they are doing.

  • Third: After swelling goes down, the ear is possibly drained and what is left is a small deformity


Properly draining the most common ear injury in grappling sports (known as cauliflower ear) is done typically in two ways. The first way is through a medical professional who is certified to drain the blood for the auricular hematoma. You would think this is the best route in most cases but we have heard that some medical professionals have never drained it before making the experience less desirable then it already is. Most people who get Cauliflower ear go for the second option and that is finding a wrestling coach or someone in their circle who has drained the ear injury before.

Typically through experience, coaches will take on treating wrestler’s ear. Blood stored in cauliflower ear needs to be drained using a clean syringe and you must make sure the area is clean so no infection occurs.

Treating Cauliflower Ear

The treatment for cauliflower ear is pretty simple. When you start to notice your ear getting sore or tender to touch you have a couple of options. The options are to relax on the amount of time you train, get headgear and start to wear it, or do nothing. If you do nothing your ear will eventually swell if it keeps getting hit (the likelihood of this happening is high).

Some people may not want to walk around with a mangled ear some may see it as a trophy. The choice is yours on what you want to do.

We do not believe having cauliflower ear is a big deal. It does not affect anything on how the body functions. It may look funky but we would argue that having this ear deformity is a badge of honor. When you see someone out and they have cauliflower ear you know they are a warrior. If you see someone on the street and they have this do not pick a fight with them, you will most likely be fighting someone who is trained!


Who does cauliflower ear affect?

Cauliflower ears affect most wrestlers, boxing enthusiasts, and most grapplers (BJJ athletes, sambo practitioners, even Judokas). The cauliflower ear was originally known as the fighter ear, anyone with an injury in their ears was always known to a tough individual who frequently fought.

Cauliflower ear is not a contagious thing, it is common for many people to even train in grappling or combat-based sports and never experience getting the injury. Typically cauliflower ear is avoided by those that frequently wear headgear.

It is important to note that cauliflower ear is a permanent deformity of the ear unless you go and get plastic surgery to get it fixed. In all honesty, it is not needed, you look more like a badass with it, plus why spend that type of money to fix your ear cartilage?

The only reason we think it would make sense to get plastic surgery to fix it is if you were an MMA fighter and had a portion of your ear cartilage come off or the deformity is causing issues with hearing.

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How is cauliflower ear diagnosed?

Cauliflower ear will be noticed, chances are you will not be diagnosed by a doctor. This is a common injury among those that grapple, wrestle, or participate in some kind of combat sport.

How painful is cauliflower ear?

After the ear cartilage is hardened, cauliflower ear does not really hurt at all. The part that hurts is when the ear is swelling and damaged. The initial injury to the outer portion of the ear is the most unpleasant part of the whole sequence.

Wearing protective headgear will protect you from further damaging the ear so when cauliflower ear is forming you will not have to sit out on practice. We cannot stress enough the importance of having a good pair of headgear in your training bag when you start to experience the tenderness for the first time and it can be pretty unpleasant to train when your ear is rubbing against someone else in live rounds.

How long does it take to recover from cauliflower ear treatment?

It depends on several variables including the severity and length of the injury. If the swelling is minimal and large amounts of blood are not collecting in a single spot on the ear typically all you have to do is wear protective headgear for a couple of weeks and the pain will go away.

If you have it severe enough and need incisions, people typically recover within 2 months after an incision or drainage. After surgery, the normal healing process can last up to four weeks. Your healthcare provider should be aware of your situation.

How much does cauliflower ear treatment cost (Surgery)?

The cost for cauliflower ear treatment is ~$3,100 if you go the surgical route to get the deformity fixed. The costs vary from plastic surgeon to surgery site to procedure type. Aside from the cost of the surgery, other expenses are possible as well.

Does cauliflower ear go away?

Cauliflower ears are usually permanent, although you can change their appearance by correcting otitis.

Can you get cauliflower ear from one hit?

If you receive enough blunt trauma to the ear, yes you can suffer an ear injury like an auricular hematoma. It is not common because it is typically a build-up on continuous irritation that cause the early stages of cauliflower ear.

Cauliflower ear itself cannot happen overnight since you have to first go through the process of damaging the ear, waiting for it to be tender or swell, and then harden into what is known as cauliflower ear.

Does cauliflower ear damage your hearing?

Mild cases of cauliflower ear should not damage one’s hearing. Now, if you continue finding yourself with an auricular hematoma on an already existing cauliflower ear the cartilage may start to clump in ways that impair your hearing abilities. It is not common to have this happen and not many people will experience the amount of trauma needed to hard this happen.

It is important to note that you can get punched in the ear in ways that damage the ear drum. In this case, hearing can be impaired. Check with a medical professional for further assistance if you have lingering questions about how cauliflower ear that is left untreated could impact your hearing capabilities.

Final Thoughts

We do not believe having cauliflower ear is a big deal. It does not affect anything on how the body functions. It may look funky but we would argue that having this ear deformity is a badge of honor. When you see someone out and they have cauliflower ear you know they are a warrior. If you see someone on the street and they have this do not pick a fight with them, you will most likely be fighting someone who is trained!

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3 thoughts on “BJJ Cauliflower Ears: 5 Ways to Prevent Cauliflower Ear”

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