Can Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Cause Bad Cauliflower Ear?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a great combat sport that helps build confidence and strength, but a few injuries here and there are expected.

From pulled muscles to torn ligaments, it’s possible to experience quite a few painful injuries during your time training and practising Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

Can Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Cause Bad Cauliflower Ear?

However, one injury that a lot of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu grapplers are concerned about is cauliflower ears – but what is cauliflower ears and can they actually be caused by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? 

Here, we are going to be talking about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and cauliflower ears to see if there is a direct connection between the two. 

What Are Cauliflower Ears? 

Cauliflower ear is a type of injury that occurs around the cartilage of our ears. 

The cartilage in our ears is a tissue that allows them to be flexible and bend, rather than breaking like bones do. However, cartilage relies on an adequate blood supply to help it sustain itself and maintain its strong yet flexible properties.

This is because our blood contains vital nutrients for cartilage that stops it from becoming hard. 

Cauliflower ears occur when this important blood supply to our ears’ cartilage is limited or cut off. 

Blood builds up in the ear instead, forming pools between the cartilage and the skin of our ears. This internal bleeding fills up the spaces in our ear, causing swelling and large red  lumps to grow on our ears.

These lumps can grow all over and around our ears, and over time turn white and pale, which gives them the appearance of cauliflower – hence the name! Eventually, your ears will start to look larger and puffy due to scarring from the stagnant blood. 

So, cauliflower is a type of disfigurement caused by injury to the ears. 

It is a permanent condition so once those lumps are there and they have hardened, you won’t be able to get rid of them without extensive surgery. However, you can seek early treatment of draining and compressing your ear to remove the stagnant blood but most people either do not notice or ignore the early symptoms of cauliflower ears and thus, they only seek treatment when it’s too late. 

What Causes Cauliflower Ears? 

Cauliflower ears are caused by trauma to the ears which in turn breaks the blood supply, causing internal bleeding in our ears and starves our cartilage.

This break in the blood supply in our ears is usually caused by a hard smack to the ear or side of the head. Basically, any kind of physical blow to your ears can cause cauliflower ears. 

Afterwards, your ear will feel tender to touch and it will start to swell up, turning red as the blood begins to pool. These lumps are officially called hematoma, and a single blow can produce many hematomas or just one at a time. 

There’s no definite amount of force or power in a blow that causes cauliflower ears. Everybody’s ears are different and while one person can withstand one kind of blow, someone else may develop cauliflower ears from a blow of the same strength. 

So, whether or not you develop cauliflower ears from a blow to the ear all depends on your ear itself. 

Does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Cause Cauliflower Ears? 

While practising Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it’s very likely that you will experience cauliflower ears at some point. 

This is because in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you will be put into all kinds of headlocks, triangles, and chokes that can cause trauma to your ears (Find out How To Escape A Headlock here). Not only that, but you may smack your ear against the mat or simply take a whack from your opponent. 

Basically, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport and thus you cannot avoid physical contact with your opponent. This means that it’s super likely that you will experience trauma to your ears at some point that will lead to cauliflower ears.

This is true for all kinds of contact sports including boxing, rugby, wrestling, and more. 

So, yes, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can cause cauliflower ears just like every other contact sport. 

Can You Avoid Cauliflower Ears In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? 

Cauliflower ears can actually be treated and avoided if caught early enough. Because they are caused by scarring from hematomas and hardened ear cartilage, you can drain your ears of the blood so they cannot harden and leave you with large lumps on your ears. 

However, it can be difficult to even notice your cauliflower ears at first. So, it’s important to be wary of tender, swollen ears after a Jiu Jitsu session.

If you suspect that you have cauliflower ears forming, you need to seek out medical care immediately to avoid the disfigurement turning permanent.

You need to head to your doctor and they will drain your ears of stagnant blood, allowing the blood supply in your ear to return to normal and avoid starving the cartilage in your ears.

Once your ears are drained, you should rest them and avoid further trauma until they have fully healed

While sparring, you can also wear some kind of headgear to prevent trauma to your ears – but wearing this headgear after your ear is already injured will only make the situation worse.  

Overall, it can be difficult to avoid causing cauliflower ears. Other than protecting yourself and being less aggressive during sparring, then there’s little else you can do.

Just be cautious but don’t let this fear of causing cauliflower ears hold you back from giving it all you have during sparring! 


So, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can cause cauliflower ears and although the extent of the disfigurement all depends on how much trauma your ear experienced and how quickly you sought treatment, it is possible that you can suffer from some seriously noticeable cauliflower ears while trying out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

However, there are ways to avoid getting cauliflower ears such as wearing headgear or being less aggressive during sparring, but you should be vigilant to notice any early symptoms and seek treatment immediately. 

Christopher Anderson
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