HOW TO PREVENT CAULIFLOWER EAR BJJ
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a highly functional, and systematic form of combat sports. The art involves a series of dynamic movements, high intensity impacts, and some seriously rough pressure that an athlete will use to control the position, before looking for brutal submission finishes. The system of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu pits two combatants against each other in a game of human chess, which usually ends with one athlete becoming the victor. There is always rough play in BJJ, as athletes can commonly land heavily onto their opponent, or use grinding pressure through their shins, as they look to advance their position. There are many common jiu jitsu injuries that happen during a competitive match. Some of these injuries are minor like sprained fingers, mat burn, and Gi rashes, and some can be more serious like torn ligaments, torn tendons, dislocated, and broken bones, even accidental damage to the head area, which can include the nose, ear, and eye socket regions.
What this article covers:
- What Are Cauliflower Ears
- How Does Cauli Ear Happen
- What Is the Treatment Plan for Cauli Ear
- How to Prevent a Cauliflower Ear
Receiving damage to the ear can cause conditions like perichondrial hematomas, which is more widely known as the dreaded bjj cauliflower ear. This condition is quite common amongst Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, and is also widely seen throughout other Martial Arts like Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Boxing, and Wrestling. Athletes that suffer from the cauliflower ear have usually suffered some sort of blunt force trauma directly to their ear. This damage can be in the form of a strike, an impact from falling, or a grinding pressure that comes from a glove, a knee, an elbow, or a head. Earning a cauliflower ear in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is seen as an award of bravery, as many high level athletes in the sport wear theirs like a formidable badge of honour.
Jiu Jitsu Ears
Jiu Jitsu ears, commonly referred to as cauliflower ears, are a well-known condition within the grappling and martial arts communities. This condition is characterized by swelling and deformation of the ear, often resulting from repeated friction and impacts during training and sparring sessions. The ear's outer part becomes swollen and hardened, and if left untreated, it can lead to a permanent alteration in the ear’s appearance. Practitioners of Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, and other grappling sports are particularly prone to this condition, as these activities involve a lot of close contact and potential for the ears to be rubbed, struck, or compressed.
Cauliflower ears not only have an aesthetic impact but can also be associated with pain and discomfort, especially during the initial stages of injury. It's crucial for Jiu Jitsu practitioners to be aware of the risks and take preventive measures, such as wearing protective headgear, to mitigate the chances of developing cauliflower ears. Treating any ear injuries promptly and adequately is also essential to prevent long-term damage.
WHAT ARE CAULIFLOWER EARS
The condition known as the cauliflower ear is an incurable ear injury with a technical term of perichondrial hematoma. Usually this condition happens to athletes after they receive some sort of hard impact to the outer area of their ear. What usually happens is the ear will fill up full of blood, or fluid after a significant trauma sustained to the ear. This can cause a drastic separation between the perichondrium, and the ear cartilage. The result of this daunting process is that fibrous tissue can cause some significant swelling, and this deformity is what Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes call the cauliflower ear. The ear is an extremely sensitive appendage of the human body that is considerably vulnerable to damaging blows. The skin that covers the ear is only very thin, and there are no deeper layers of fat that can protect the inner workings of the ear.
This can become quite a debilitating injury that athletes will need to be constantly getting their ears drained, just so they can get back on the training mats. Hard pockets of blood, or blood clots will clog up between the perichondrium, and the cartilage of the ear, which will block the blood flow to the avascular cartilage. The lack of blood perfusion, can leave the cartilage exposed to infections, which can become an even more serious injury. As the cartilage begins to deform, blood will keep on filling up in the ear giving the resemblance of a cauliflower. If an injury of this magnitude is left unchecked, or untreated it can lead to even more serious conditions like infections into the nasal cavity, and can even affect the balance of an athlete with more damage deeper into their ear. If this condition is not treated it can end up needing surgery, and this can lead to several months off of the training mats, where athletes will need significant rest periods, and their bjj recovery will consist of extensive rehabilitation processes.
Is Cauliflower Ear Permanent
Cauliflower ear, once fully developed, can be a permanent condition if not treated promptly and appropriately. The deformity occurs due to a collection of blood or fluid in the ear, leading to tissue damage and scarring. If the accumulated blood or fluid is not drained quickly, the ear’s cartilage can become permanently damaged, leading to the characteristic appearance of cauliflower ear. Early intervention is key, as prompt medical attention and proper treatment can minimize the damage and potentially reverse the condition.
In some cases, even with immediate treatment, some level of deformity might remain, but it is generally less severe than if the condition had been left untreated. It's crucial for individuals engaged in high-risk sports like Jiu Jitsu to be vigilant and seek medical attention at the first sign of ear trauma to increase the chances of a full recovery and minimize the risk of permanent deformity.
HOW DOES CAULI EAR HAPPEN
Martial Arts has been around for centuries, and athletes that train in different styles of combat are well known for their hard work, and ferocity within their own discipline. Many striking arts are notorious for athletes suffering from cauliflower ear, as a punch, or a kick directly to the ear can cause massive swelling, and bleeding in the ear. Wrestling is another huge contributor to athletes that dawn the cauliflower ear, as the close quarters combat grappling style can leave athletes swollen, and deformed within their ears. The looming question is how long does it take to get cauliflower ear from bjj, as the formidable grappling style is known for its cauli ears. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu an athlete's ears can blow up instantaneously after a solid impact to the ear region. In some cases it can take several weeks before any cauliflower ear can show up, and some athletes can go their whole careers, and never get it. Basically it comes down to the severity of the impact, and how well an athlete can navigate around the dangers of being squashed.
The most common way to receive a serious ear injury is through strikes to the head. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does not allow striking within its repertoire, but there are always accidental knees, elbows, or head pressure. Most high level practitioners are able to avoid accidental strikes towards the head, and this is due to their expertise, and experience within the grappling art. Beginners on the other hand are extremely clumsy, and can be quite reckless with their movement, as they do not know their own strength, and will commonly try to use too much strength over technique. This can lead towards unintentional impacts to the ear, and therefore leaving athletes suffering from perichondrial hematomas. BJJ also has a high standard of takedown maneuvers, as Judo, and Wrestling have become symbiotic with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Athletes that get taken down in the heat of a battle can wind up landing on their ear, which can cause the ear to swell dramatically. An athlete that takes their opponent down can end up landing on top of their opponent during the fall, which can also lead to blunt force trauma toward the ear.
One of the most common ways that an athlete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can suffer from the dreaded cauli ear is through the grinding pressure dragged across their ear. There are two ways that this can happen, with the first being an athlete that uses transitions to move from one control position to another. An athlete that has their opponent in side control might decide to transition around for a far side armbar, or to a north south position, where they wind up grinding their shin across the ear of their opponent. Another way this can happen is through the submission process, as a student looks to lockup submissions on their opponent, they can commonly squeeze hard putting pressure towards the ear. One of the main contributing factors to a cauliflower ear is an opponent trying to defend a submission, and instead of using a technical framing escape, they will just use brute strength and try to rip their head straight out of a choke hold. This can be detrimental for an athlete, as they are only guaranteed to suffer from a perichondrial hematoma. Injuries like this to the ear can be avoided if an athlete chooses the right pathways, and uses a calm style of Jiu Jitsu.
Can You Get Cauliflower Ear from BJJ
Yes, cauliflower ear is a common injury in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) due to the sport's grappling nature and the frequent friction and pressure applied to the ears. The close-contact maneuvers and the potential for strikes to the head make BJJ practitioners particularly susceptible to developing cauliflower ear. It’s not uncommon for athletes to sustain minor ear traumas during sparring sessions, leading to the condition if left unchecked.
To mitigate the risk of developing cauliflower ear in BJJ, many practitioners opt to wear protective headgear, such as grappling ear guards, designed to cushion and shield the ears from direct impacts. Consistent use of such protective equipment, along with immediate attention to any ear injuries, can significantly reduce the likelihood of cauliflower ear developing.
Does Cauliflower Ear Hurt
The development of cauliflower ear can indeed be painful, especially during the initial stages when inflammation and swelling are at their peak. The pain is typically associated with the trauma to the ear that causes blood or fluid to accumulate in the outer ear’s cartilage. This accumulation creates pressure, leading to pain and discomfort. The degree of pain experienced can vary from person to person and depends on the severity of the injury.
Over time, if the condition is left untreated and the ear heals in a deformed state, the pain might subside, but the ear could remain tender when pressure is applied. For those seeking to continue their training in Jiu Jitsu or other contact sports, addressing the pain and treating the injury promptly is crucial to avoid long-term discomfort and potential complications.
Is Cauliflower Ear Dangerous
While cauliflower ear itself is not life-threatening, it can lead to complications if not addressed promptly. The most apparent impact of cauliflower ear is the aesthetic change it brings, which can affect an individual’s self-esteem and confidence. Besides the physical appearance, if the blood or fluid accumulation in the ear is not drained, it can lead to permanent cartilage damage, resulting in long-term deformity.
In some cases, cauliflower ear can also lead to complications such as infection, abscess formation, or reduced blood flow to the ear, which can potentially cause further damage. To prevent these complications, it is crucial for individuals, especially those involved in grappling sports like Jiu Jitsu, to seek medical attention promptly after sustaining an ear injury. Early and appropriate intervention can significantly reduce the risk of complications and long-term damage associated with cauliflower ear.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT PLAN FOR CAULI EAR
There are many different ways that an athlete can treat their case of cauliflower ear. Even though there is no scientific cure there are ways to reduce the swelling, and the bleeding so the athlete can get back to what they love the most. The most popular way to treat a cauliflower ear is by evacuating the blood with a syringe. This process is commonly done by a medical physician but it can also be done at home, as long as the athlete has had experience in the process. Draining the ear will always work better if it is done instantaneously, rather than waiting hours, and this is because an athlete can avoid any permanent disfiguration of the ear. There are several ways that an athlete can drain the blood from their ear other than with a syringe. A Doctor can use various other suction devices, or place a wick inside the ear, and more commonly make an incision with a scalpel to help release the swelling inside of the ear. The main problem that athletes will face is a recurring swelling within the injury, as this can be extremely annoying for a student, and may even stop them from training permanently.
Because there is no cure for a cauliflower ear, athletes will have to suffice with draining their ear, and doing their best to prevent the ear from swelling. Although wearing ear protection is illegal in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition it can be worn during training, and some athletes may choose to do this so they can protect the structures of their ear. The other option for athletes is to start taping their ears, as this can help with a protective lining which may be enough to stop a significant blow to the ear from swelling up. Athletes can also use direct pressure dressings which will compress the ear, or they can use a variety of different types of sutures. Ear splints are another good method for keeping compression on the ears, but like all taping methods they will only work for so long.
If an athlete cops another direct hit to their ear then it will more than likely swell up again. Athletes that suffer from recurring hematomas, simply draining them consistently will begin to have little to no effect. Athletes will need to start looking at surgical procedures to try and rectify the shape, and structure of their ear. The most daunting part of a recurring hematoma is that it can become quite infected, and this is where the danger lies. Infections can be extremely dangerous, as they can often lead to life threatening situations. Antibiotics will need to be taken to stop the infection from getting worse. Rest periods are crucial for an athlete to try and settle down the swelling in the ear, but commonly athletes are too obsessed with BJJ, and will continue to train. The last option is surgery, and athletes will try to avoid this if they can, but sometimes they need a procedure to stop any permanent deformities.
HOW TO PREVENT A CAULIFLOWER EAR
There are several ways to prevent a cauliflower ear from taking effect. Wearing protective gear is one way of combating a rising swell within the ear. Unfortunately wearing ear guards in BJJ competition is against IBJJF regulations, but using them inside of a training academy is fine. All athletes should learn the art of strapping, because they never know when they might need to learn how to strap knees, lace up ankle guards, or learn taping fingers for jiu jitsu. Taping ears can also be tricky, as the intricacies involved are extensive. Athletes will need to make sure they put enough tape on to cover the affected area. Using tape won't completely protect the injury, but it can add another layer of small protection. Subsequently using a small amount of tape can possibly help with dragging across the ear, but a blunt force trauma directly to the ear, using tape just won't cut it.
The best way to prevent a cauliflower ear is to roll smarter, and avoid any major impacts to the head area. This means learning how to break fall properly so that an opponent cannot slam them onto their head, or their ear. Learning how to frame correctly to create space underneath an opponent is crucial, because if a student just allows their opponent to apply heavy amounts of pressure then this can lead to a hematoma of the ear. Escaping from submissions is the big one, and some students will recklessly try to muscle their way out of these positions thinking they can squeeze their head out of a small gap. All this will achieve is that a student will suffer from a cauliflower ear. The smarter move would be to use the proper technical maneuvers to escape the submission, and if this is not possible, especially in training, tapping is an athlete's best friend. There should be no egos in the gym, as a student should be looking at protecting themself, and setting themselves up for a longevity in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
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