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Cauliflower Ear

What is Cauliflower Ear?

This refers to the deformity of the ear, which is caused by blunt trauma or any other injuries like boxing or wrestling. If left untreated, the injuries can lead to blockage, which prevents the blood flow and damages tissues. This results in a swollen-appearance of the affected area. [1, 2, 3]

the lumpy appearance of cauliflower ear
Picture 1 : The lumpy appearance of cauliflower ear.
Image Source : Photobucket.com

How Do You Get a Cauliflower Ear?

If you enjoy close contact sports, which includes boxing, martial arts, rugby, or wrestling, you are likely to get cauliflower ear. But how do you get cauliflower ear from wrestling? Trauma can result from your opponents through hitting one another or heads rubbing during matches.

Non-athletes are also affected. Cauliflower ear can result from unexpected accidents, or from other physical altercations.

What causes Cauliflower ear

Sports injuries, trauma to the ear, the small collection of blood on the affected areas or blood clot that blocks blood flow and nutrients are the major causes of cauliflower ear.

Hits to the ear – Your ears are vulnerable to trauma. When the ear is struck, a blood clot develops just under the skin. Your skin will therefore be sheared from the cartilage after a period of time. The skin’s connection to the cartilage is affected, and this is what basically causes cauliflower ear. [4]

The skin being pulled away from the cartilage – The main blood supply of the ear cartilage comes from the overlaying skin. When the overlaying skin is separated from the cartilage, the cartilage will be deprived of the important nutrients. The cartilage will die and this results in an increase in the cauliflower ear infection risks.

Cauliflower ear deformity is caused by the untreated infection. The cartilage will contract on itself resulting in unique outer ear. The cartilage may die when the flow of blood is blocked. This is due to the lack of supportive tissue fold on itself. The scar tissues may form on the ear, contributing to a deformed and swollen looks.

Once the cartilage dies and scarring occurs, the deformity is permanent. At this stage, your ear may appear pale as a result of blood supply loss. The cosmetic procedures can be used to improve the ear appearance.

Cauliflower Ear Symptoms

The cauliflower ear symptoms may become more permanent and prominent if it is left untreated. The prompt treatment is effective in preventing cauliflower development.

The initial symptoms from the injuries, which results into cauliflower ear, are actually similar to the symptoms that one may experience from the blunt trauma that can affect any other part of the body.

This includes;

  • Swellings
  • Bruising
  • Pain

You should never assume these symptoms after you have received multiple blows on your ear. [5]
The severe symptoms of cauliflower are as follow;

  • A headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Facial swelling
  • Severe bleeding

The curvature of your ear can also deform. If the ear damage from the trauma is considered to be severe, one should see a doctor for immediate treatment.

Once deformity of the cartilage and scarring occurs, symptoms may not be available.

How to get rid of Cauliflower ear : Treatment

Early cauliflower ear treatment can help in preventing permanent deformity. Cauliflower ear infection is preventable even after it has occurred.

The main treatment goal is to ease the cauliflower ear blockage such that blood can flow through the affected tissues with ease, preventing the permanent damage which may affect the cartilage.

The blockage is eased through small incisions and cauliflower ear draining of the accumulated blood and removal of the clot to prevent further bleeding. All these processes are performed by a qualified doctor.

Any infection is treated as soon as it occurs. As the ear inflammation reduces the connection between the skins and the underlying cartilage is re-establish.

The doctor may decide to reconnect the tissues by using stitches and then apply special bandages to put pressure on the affected area. The pressure dressing may stay in place for a few days to almost one week.

The affected areas will be monitored for any signs of infections. Close monitoring will enable the doctor to determine if additional treatment is needed. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infections.

In some cases, a patient can be referred to the nose, ear or throat doctor/plastic surgeon to treat the deformity (by surgery) and assure them of proper healing. [6, 7]

Cauliflower Ear Prevention

If you enjoy boxing, wrestling, rugby, martial arts, and any other close contact sports, then you should ensure that you wear the recommended head gear when engaging in these activities, in order to avoid the risks such as cauliflower ear explodes. [8, 9, 10]

You should be able to get a proper fitting head gear. Helmets that are too loose tend to disturb by slipping out of place, leaving your ears and other parts of your head vulnerable to injuries. Too tight ones may also cause damage to your ears, due to the fact that you will rub it against your ears while putting it on and off.

You should never forget the protective gears during training. Most of us assume that practices and training are safe. Even top rugby players get injuries during training, so take care of your ears and head all the time.

If you are planning to pierce your ear, talk to your doctor first in order to receive his/her advice on cauliflower ear piercing.

As mentioned above, cauliflower ear can be prevented even after it has occurred. You should be aware of the risks and contact a doctor to evaluate any trauma to the ears. Prompt treatment prevents the unsightly, permanent and cosmetic effects of cauliflower ear.

Cauliflower Ear from Piercing

You can be affected by cauliflower ear from piercing the upper area of your ears through the cartilage if the piercing becomes infected. The piercing may lead to a type of cartilage ear infection known as auricular perichondritis, which can also result in cauliflower ear.


  1. Cauliflower Ear Kim Eagle, Rubia Khalak, Jay K. Roberts New England Journal of Medicine 1996
  2. Auricular Hematoma and Cauliflower Deformation of the Ear Albert Mudry, Wolfgang Pirsig Otology & Neurotology 2009
  3. Larsen, L. (2012). Sports injuries sourcebook: Basic consumer health information about sprains, fractures, tendon injuries, overuse injuries, and injuries to the head, spine, shoulders, arms, hands, trunk, legs, knees, and feet, and facts about sports- specific injuries, injury prevention, protective equipment, children and sports, and the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of sports injuries. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.
  4. Donachie, D. (2012). A sea of troubles. London: Allison & Busby.
  5. The Protruding Cauliflower Ear, GEORGE HARRISON, R NEAL SCHNEIDERMAN, Southern Medical Journal 1962
  6. Surgical correction of the cauliflower ear M.K Rollert Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 1999
  7. Management of Auricular Hematoma and the Cauliflower Ear Jewel Greywoode, Edmund Pribitkin, Howard Krein Facial Plastic Surgery 2010
  8. Eaves, T. (2010). The practical guide to athletic training. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
  9. Judd, S. J. (2007). Sports injuries sourcebook: Basic consumer health information about sprains and strains, fractures, growth plate injuries, overtraining injuries, and injuries to the head, face, shoulders, elbows, hands, spinal column, knees, ankles, and feet. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.
  10. Ammer, C. (1993). Southpaws & Sunday Punches and Other Sporting Expressions. Cork: BookBaby.

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