Cauliflower ear is seen everywhere in the martial arts community. Grapplers, boxers, and MMA fighters are probably the biggest culprits when it comes to having it. The more trauma the ear receives, the more of a chance you will have to get Cauliflower ear. So what is it, how do you get it, how do you prevent it, and how can you get rid of it? Most of know what it is and have seen people with it, but I realized a lot of my teammates are missing an important step to making sure it doesn’t come back. Just in case I want to write about it to maybe help someone else.
So what is cauliflower ear? Cauliflower ear happens when the blood supply to the cartilage is cut off and the cartilage shrivels up and dies. How does the blood supply get cut off from the cartilage? It happens when either a blunt trauma causes a hematoma (blood filled pocket, bruise) to occur, or the skin is torn away from the cartilage. The skin on your ear is the only way the cartilage gets blood circulated to it. When there is no blood circulating to the cartilage it dies and shrivels up. So when the blood finally drains away, the damage is done. Prevention is pretty straight forward. Wear headgear for the martial art of your choice. It is the best way to prevent getting it.
So how do you treat Cauliflower ear if you do get it? As soon as it starts to blow up, you need to treat it. The best way to get it treated is to, if necessary, get it drained by a doctor. A doctor is going to have better tools, sanitized equipment, and resources in case anything goes wrong. If you can’t afford a doctor, it is possible to drain your own ear… I would definitely suggest asking around and finding out if a teammate has experience with draining cauliflower ear. Here is a basic run down of the steps though.
1. Disinfect all of your tools. You’re going to need a syringe, diabetic needles seem to be the needle of choice, rubber gloves, gauze and some thing to create compression on your ear.
2. Glove up, who ever is sticking you with a needle should wear the gloves. Keep bodily fluids away from your skin.
3. Locate the fluid filled pockets in your ear. They should be squishy pockets in your ear that move around. The hard stuff is the part that is too late to fix.
4. Drain the area. Stick the needle in to your ear and slowly suck the blood or fluid out. This step may need to happen more than once. Use a new needle every time, and stick in a different place every time.
5. After draining, use the gauze and light pressure over the points of entry on your ear. This will catch any more blood.
6. Compression. This is the part my teammates and friends seem to miss. After you drain the area you need to compress the skin to the cartilage, this way the blood doesn’t pool again and you can prevent most of the cauliflower effect from taking place.
There can be some side effects of cauliflower ear. Infection happens especially when draining on your own. Most often though the wrinkling and deformity of the ear are the only things that you really need to worry about with it. Cauliflower ear is easily treatable by a doctor or by yourself with a few careful steps. Don't forget to add pressure once it is drained, and it will greatly decrease your chances of having majorly deformed ears. But the best way to beat cauliflower ear is just to prevent it by wearing headgear
I actually found a great video on draining your cauliflower ear by yourself. Thank you to Phillipe Nover for putting up a great video!