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How common is cauliflower ear in BJJ?

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Have you ever wondered why some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) practitioners have misshapen ears that resemble a cauliflower? This condition is called cauliflower ear, and it's a common occurrence in BJJ. In fact, it's so prevalent that it has become somewhat of a badge of honor in the BJJ community. But what causes cauliflower ear, and how common is it really? Let's delve deeper into this topic and explore the reasons behind this unique phenomenon. Whether you're a seasoned BJJ practitioner or just getting started, understanding the ins and outs of cauliflower ear can help you better protect yourself and your training partners. So, let's get to it and explore the fascinating world of cauliflower ear in BJJ.

What is cauliflower ear?

Cauliflower ear is a common condition that affects individuals who participate in contact sports, especially in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, boxing, and mixed martial arts . It occurs when the ear experiences trauma or a direct blow that damages the cartilage, causing it to separate from the overlying skin. The injury can also cause bleeding, which results in a collection of blood between the skin and cartilage, known as a hematoma.

The name cauliflower ear comes from the appearance of the injury, which resembles a cauliflower due to the swollen, lumpy, and deformed shape of the ear. The condition can be painful and lead to hearing difficulties if left untreated.

Cauliflower ear is prevalent in BJJ, where participants frequently use their heads and ears to create leverage and pressure during grappling and ground fighting. It can occur gradually over time due to repetitive trauma, or it can happen suddenly due to a single blow or impact.

Who is at risk of cauliflower ear?

Cauliflower ear is a common injury that can occur in contact sports like BJJ. It is caused by repeated trauma to the ear, which can result in the accumulation of blood and other fluids in the ear cartilage. While cauliflower ear is often associated with BJJ, it can occur in any contact sport where the ear is at risk of being hit or rubbed repeatedly.

People who participate in contact sports are most at risk of developing cauliflower ear. BJJ practitioners are particularly vulnerable because the sport involves a lot of grappling and submissions, which can result in accidental hits to the ears. Wrestlers, boxers, and mixed martial artists are also at high risk of developing cauliflower ear. However, anyone who engages in contact sports or activities that involve head trauma is at risk.

In addition to athletes, individuals who have had surgery or an injury to the ear may also be at risk of developing cauliflower ear. This is because the scar tissue that forms after surgery or an injury can make the ear more susceptible to damage. It is important to take steps to prevent cauliflower ear, such as wearing protective headgear during training and competition.

Symptoms of cauliflower ear

Symptoms of cauliflower ear include swelling, redness, and tenderness in the affected area. In severe cases, the ear may become deformed and disfigured, giving it a cauliflower-like appearance.

If left untreated, cauliflower ear can cause permanent damage and hearing loss. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as you notice any symptoms. Your doctor may recommend draining the fluid and applying compression to the affected area to prevent further damage. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the ear and restore its normal appearance.

If you participate in contact sports, it is crucial to take preventative measures to avoid cauliflower ear. Wearing protective headgear or ear guards can help to minimize the risk of injury to the ear. It is also important to seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of cauliflower ear to prevent long-term damage.

How to treat cauliflower ear

The first step in treating cauliflower ear is to drain the fluid buildup that has accumulated in the ear. This can be done by a medical professional or an experienced coach using a syringe and needle. After draining the ear, a compressive dressing is applied to prevent the fluid from re-accumulating. This compressive dressing should be left on for several days to ensure that the ear has enough time to heal properly.

In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection. It is important to keep the ear clean and dry during the healing process to minimize the risk of infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also help manage pain and swelling.

If the cauliflower ear is severe, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgery involves removing the damaged cartilage and reconstructing the ear to restore its shape and function. This procedure should be performed by a qualified surgeon with experience in treating cauliflower ear.

In conclusion, cauliflower ear is a common condition among combat sport athletes, particularly in those who engage in grappling sports. If you suspect that you have cauliflower ear, seek medical attention immediately to prevent permanent deformity and hearing loss. The treatment for cauliflower ear involves draining the fluid buildup, antibiotics to prevent infection, and surgery in severe cases.

Tips for avoiding cauliflower ear

Cauliflower ear can be a painful and unsightly condition that many BJJ practitioners try to avoid. While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of developing cauliflower ear, there are several tips that can help reduce the likelihood of it happening.

First and foremost, wearing appropriate headgear during training can greatly reduce the risk of developing cauliflower ear. Headgear can help protect the ears from trauma and impact during sparring and rolling, which are the primary causes of cauliflower ear.

Additionally, maintaining good hygiene practices can also help reduce the risk of developing cauliflower ear. Keeping the ears clean and dry after training, and avoiding prolonged exposure to moisture or humidity can help prevent the development of infections and inflammation that can lead to cauliflower ear.

Another important tip is to be aware of your training partners and the techniques they use. Certain positions, such as the over-under pass or the crucifix, can put significant pressure on the ears and increase the risk of cauliflower ear. Being aware of these positions and being mindful of your training partners' techniques can help reduce the likelihood of injury.

Finally, seeking prompt medical attention for any ear trauma or injury is essential. If you experience any pain, swelling, or redness in the ears after training, it is important to seek medical attention right away to prevent the development of cauliflower ear.


In conclusion, cauliflower ear is a common and potentially serious condition that can occur in BJJ practitioners due to the repeated trauma to the ear. It is caused by a collection of blood and other fluids in the outer ear, which can lead to disfigurement, pain, and even hearing loss if left untreated. While some BJJ practitioners may view cauliflower ear as a badge of honor, it is important to take the necessary precautions to prevent it from occurring in the first place, such as wearing protective headgear during training and seeking prompt medical attention if symptoms do arise.

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