The Cause of Cauliflower Ear in Wrestling
In the current state of high school to college level wrestling, headgear is necessary in order to compete. With this, there is shown to be an increased number of cauliflower ear cases versus cauliflower ear cases at the Olympic level. Even with other contact sports, headgear has been banned for safety reasons. In wrestling, and many contact sports cauliflower ear is most commonly caused by severe blows to the ear, causing blood to fill between the cartilage and the skin. If this is not drained or treated properly it results in auricular hematoma, or more commonly known as cauliflower ear. In many cases, it can also be caused by the lack of protection from headgear, and the rough plastic covering of “protection” it provides.
Headgear in contact sports is often rough and not well crafted, resulting in an uncomfortable fit and injuries that would be worse compared to if you just went without it. In BJJ Headgear: Do Ear Guards Help With Cauliflower Ear, BJJ World writes that “No need to wear those plastic ear guards that annoy both you and your training partner any longer.” This is due to the fact that Jiu Jitsu headgear allows for different materials to be used such as neoprene or nylon. Additionally, “they’re extremely lightweight, while still offering more protection than heavier-duty old-school ones” also permitting for headgear that comes with different straps for different types of headgear, allowing for more adjustable options through straps on top and bottom. In wrestling, they don’t come with this option at all allowing for slippage and a fit that isn’t firm, instead being extremely loose.
In Olympic wrestling, you will not see any of the wrestlers wearing headgear. In Wrestling 101: Equipment, headgear was banned, which was ultimately deemed as a safety hazard. Headgear allows for your opponent to have something extra to grab onto, move around, and an additional item with a hard surface that can cause abrasions, bruising, as well as minor cuts. NBC Olympics starts with “light kneepads are permitted, but ear guards and headgear are forbidden” due to safety reasons. This is due to their nature of being hard and sometimes having sharp edges or the roughness of the Velcro or the metal clip that is used to attach it. While in high-school wrestling, headgear is a must due to the fact of the Wrestling Rules Committee as well as the NFHS Board of Directors. As well as in college wrestling, headgear is also an optional piece in most competitive tournaments, but required in actual meets, duals, and scrimmages.
With eliminating the use of headgear, it will remove an advantage that both you and your opponent have if both of you are wearing headgear, as an extra item to use and grab onto. While in Olympic Wrestling, you do not see a single wrestler wearing headgear. 7 out of the 12 wrestlers on the National Team for the United States do not suffer from cauliflower ear, while the other 5 do. None wear headgear while wrestling. This is a much better statement versus the 7/13 wrestlers had suffered from cauliflower ear for Cherry Hill East, and 9/13 of the varsity wrestlers of Cherry Hill West had suffered from cauliflower ear, all wearing headgear.
In wrestling, some may even consider cauliflower ear desirable. In Missouri wrestlers weigh in on cauliflower ear, “he said he considers it a symbol of his dedication to the sport.” But after getting it drained over and over again, and the constant pain it leads to with just a slight touch, it may get old to most. It can also lead to a permanent deformation, as well as possible death in parts of the ear, leading to an even worse deformation. Often headgear is very restrictive. During a match or practice, it can give your opponent a slight advantage by being something extra to grab onto and shake you around a little more. Without it, you may lose the slight amount of protection it gives, you but you have more freedom to move around. Mayes continues with, “‘A hundred years ago, farmers working out in the fields didn’t have gloves, so their hands would become calloused. People called them working-man’s hands,’ Mayes said. “I think cauliflower ear is the same thing, just with wrestling.” While being like a simple callous on the hand, just a little added pain and damages with repetitive medical treatment.
Within the use of headgear, there will always be pros and cons. Sure, it may provide some sort of protection, but with this it will also give an advantage to your opponent. It provides them with something to grab onto and move you around. Without it, you gain a bit more freedom and a lot less to grab onto, as well as less friction, abrasions, bruising, and cuts both wrestlers will obtain during the duration of the match. Headgear directly has an effect on whether or not a wrestler may obtain cauliflower ear, or auricular hematoma. While wearing headgear during a match, it can easily be moved around and because of the cupping around the ear, it also moves this piece around, which can cause bruising, cuts, and abrasions to the ear and side of the head.
In Cauliflower ear among Finnish high-level male wrestlers and judokas is prevalent and symptomatic deformity, while sitting down and spectating a wrestling match, you often see both wrestlers giving it their all. While wrestling, there are often multiple blows received and given in the duration of the match, to the back of the head and neck, cross faces, and other types of legal moves that are rough on the head and ear area. Every so often, you see a painful wince from the wrestler receiving the blow, most of the time, this is due to cauliflower ear. A study, done by Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, and KIHU – Research Institute for Olympic Sports, Jyväskylä, Finland, shows that a ratio of 46 wrestlers out of 55 had experienced or have cauliflower ear, 84% of the wrestlers surveyed. The study also shows that almost all (96%) had sought treatment for an auricular hematoma, 96% of the wrestlers had been treated for cauliflower ear, typically done with a syringe or a needle, allowing for the blood to drain out of the ear. In the midst of this, headgear is easily moved around and gives both wrestlers an advantage with being able to clutch onto something. Without headgear, both wrestlers will be in a more fair competitive field and even a safer competitive field.
By following in the footsteps of the highest competitive level of wrestling and contact sports, there can be a safer, and more fair level of competition in high school and college wrestling. With no headgear, wrestlers will be able to move more freely and not have to pause matches because of mishap with their headgear, they won’t have to deal with being jostled around by opponents grabbing onto it, and no more of the annoying cuts and bruises from their headgear.