T Nation

My Cauliflower Ear


This winter during wrestling season I received the craziest cauliflower ear. It is all hardened up now and I am wondering what will happen now that I'm wrestling on it again and next season. Can the hardened scar tissue expand and get bigger and blow up again or will I just have to watch out for the remains of the normal parts of the ear to get bruised?



I think the correct answers are sort of, and yes.

To explain I am going to give a little detail about what "cauliflower ear" is. I am not familiar with your background with anatomy, so if you are unfamiliar with any of this, or you need more explanation let me know.

The "cauliflower ear" deformity is really not so much due to "swelling" like an injured muscle but the separation of the perichondrium (outer sheath of the ear cartilage) and the cartilage of the ear (in this case elastic cartilage). The layers separate due to trauma and blood fills the space between them (as you doubtlessly know). During healing the inner cartilage usually thickens a bit and some cells die and calcify. The perichondrium basically grows itself new layer of cartilage, and the blood is slowly re absorbed. It is this slow re absorption of blood that causes most of the problem.

Cartilage is considered to be avascular (not supplied directly by blood vessels). This means that the trapped blood cannot be shunted off as quickly as it could in the case of injury to vascular tissue, (think of how quickly a bruise on your skin, or even a deep muscle bruise goes away compared to how long your ear was swelled). As the blood is slowly absorbs the perichondrium contracts on the new layer of cartilage that it grew, this causes the tissue to buckle leading to the "cauliflower" appearance. Because the blood stays around taking up space the perichondrium, with its newly grown cartilage, and the inner cartilage do not heal together. Instead fibrous tissue fills the void.

The reason I typed all of that out is to make it clear how and why cauliflower ear occurs and how it heals. It makes sense that because the perichondrium and the cartilage do not heal together properly, that the injury is more likely to re-occur (or more properly spread) when the same stresses are put on it. This also agrees with what I have seen personally, and heard about anecdotally, that cauliflower ears often get worse. Of course the other normal parts can also be injured when wrestling (otherwise it would never happen in the first place).

You did not state what you did for ear. Usually the treatment is to drain the blood with a needle, and to keep blood from re-infiltrating the space between the cartilage and perichondrium. This is best done sooner than later. I think that the guideline is to get it treated within 5-7 days, but treating cauliflower ear is out of my lane so I am going by my notoriously "steel trap like" (archaic, cruel, prone to rust) mind and could easily be mistaken. Regardless, I think it makes sense to be extra vigilant about wearing your head gear and to get any future injuries treated as quickly as possible.

I apologize for the long winded post. I also hope I did not come off condescending. The way you wrote your question seemed to indicate that perhaps your doctor, or whomever you saw about your injury did not really give much explanation.

I know that several of the regular posters on this board have very impressive wrestling and/or grappling pedigrees so hopefully a few of them can share any worthwhile tips on preventing cauliflower ear.

Finally, caveat emptor, I am not your doctor, and please do not take any of the above as a substitute for one on one medial advice.


Robert A


Robert, you are a gentleman and a scholar....heh heh.

I waited to let other's chime in but will state that I also think some guys are just more prone than others. I have never really had a problem except on the very top of my ear, and have some friends that between rugby and wrestling should basically have either no ears, or ears that resemble dinner plates, but basically have very little cauliflower ear.

The bottom line is you are going to have to start wearing head gear.

There are lots of options. We tend to run the Cliff Keen Tornados alot in our youth program but these are hard on the outside (that's why we run them because they are are just another means to make your oponent uncomfortable) and there are much softer options available. The Cliff Keen Signatures and the Matman ear guards are good options for you depending on what discipline you are involved in.


cauliflower ears make me gag


I have cauliflower ear. Hasn't come back a year later and I haven't taken any steps to prevent them.


Why do people not wear head gear?
I wore it all the time.

and I did it for a long time like 10 - 12 years.
I still ended up getting some cauliflower

both in HS and in College in US it is required in competition
So why not wear it in practice?
head gear isnt allowed in most if any international competition
Greco freestyle or judo, BJJ

as for ears there are a few things you can do
aside from wearing ear guards head gear etc.

get them drained.
protect them with tape and gauze

I have it in my right ear strangely or luckily
a dog bit through most of my right ear
and at the ER that night they where able to let
the plastic surgeon on duty stitch it up.

She scraped a ton of crap out and it looks better then it has in years.

I dont hear as well out of that ear- It is super painful in the cold
and I need to wear different sized ear buds if I use in ear headphones.

so just wear the head gear.


Good question.



Out of curiosity, how on earth did that happen? Was that your own dog?


because cauliflowers make you look mean brah! just like wearing affliction plus imaginary lat syndrome if you add a power guido with some artificial tanning then my friend you are ready to... RULE LIFE!


Just found some old pics of my sensei sparring with Belfort


Cauliflower may be tough looking- but shit isnt good for you either.

to answer the question it was my mother in laws dog - their outside dog who was a junk yard dog rescue.

He got out of his dog run and ran down the drive into the street.
I got him to come to me, got him ok with being picked up and carried,
but when we got back to his pen, he turned his head and bit my ear.

I got lucky and the plastic surgeon at ER did a good job and put something like 27 stitches into the ear

dont fuck with strange dogs.

and wear your head gear.


I don't wear headgear in nogi because it interferes with a couple of my guard breaks and passes.

Other than that, it's because I'm an idiot. Seriously. Got cauliflower ear a few months ago. Was lucky that it didn't look TOO bad at the end, but the fuss and pain of draining/grappling with it has me trying out a few different headgears.

Rugby headgear works pretty well, but the straps do hurt.


lesson learned, i will always wear headgear when grappling with strange dogs.


A bit late to reply to this but thank you for answering.

What happened to the dog? Put down?

And lol @Kaisermetal...


Take pride in your cauliflower ear pal! And yes, it can get much worse, just look at Noguiera, Couture, and Sakuraba. If you don't want it to get worse, then drain it with a needle/syringe whenever it blows up and the blood is still fresh in there (before it hardens up when it's nice and squishy). I hate needles so I just leave it, unless it's so bad that I can't train...then i get my coach to drain cuz I'm a puss when it comes to needles.

Sorry the reply was late...




I really wish you'd post in this forum more often.


honestly man i haven't really been posting on the forums here in general. so busy.

but for you. i will make the effort.


Damn son.

glad your posting-

do I really need pics of my ear


K, I've got you covered, here's one of mine... after it was drained...