Does BJJ Give You Cauliflower Ears?

If you have watched BJJ or wrestling you will have noticed that many athletes have strange looking ears. This a condition that is known as cauliflower ear where the ear has been damaged, causing it fill with blood which has then hardened, leading to permanent disfigurement. This injury is extremely common in BJJ and wrestling where the ears are rubbed and hit regularly.

Does BJJ give you cauliflower ears? Yes, BJJ does give you cauliflower ears. BJJ involves your ears suffering friction and trauma as they rubbed, hit and slammed into and by your opponent. Years of this abuse can seriously damage your ears leading to cauliflower ear and permanent damage.

The most common way BJJ athletes get cauliflower ears is:

  • Pulling head out of triangles and guillotines
  • Passing head first
  • Rubbing ear into opponent when applying top pressure
  • Shooting takedowns and hitting ear on hips, legs, knees
  • Being clubbed in the standing position
  • Having ear grinded by opponent’s head in standing position

How Do You Avoid Cauliflower Ear In BJJ?

How do you avoid cauliflower ear in BJJ? To avoid cauliflower ear in BJJ you should wear a headgear this will prevent trauma than result in cauliflower ear. You should avoid pulling your head out of tight triangles and guillotines. If you injure your ears immediately drain and compress them and don’t return to training until they are healed.

The most effective way to avoid cauliflower ear in BJJ is to wear a headgear. You will have to be pretty unlucky to get headgear if you are wearing a hard plastic headgear such as a Cliff Keen Classic. You will not be able to feel you ears even if you get hit hard as the hard plastic is effective at protecting you.

Despite this headgears are not common in BJJ. I would say less than 10% maybe even less than 5% of BJJ athletes regularly wear a headgear while training and no athletes were headgear during competitions. The only time BJJ athletes wear headgear is when they are recovering from cauliflower ear but they still want to train.

Your style of BJJ can help you avoid getting cauliflower ear in BJJ. If you pass head first, enjoy grinding your head into your opponent, don’t mind ripping your head out of triangles and love wrestling on your feet well guess what you are on the fast track to getting cauliflower ear. Now if you can alter your BJJ game to avoid regularly engaging in the aforementioned movements you can reduce your likelihood of destroying your ears.

How Long Does It Take To Get Cauliflower Ear From BJJ?

How long does it take to get cauliflower ear from BJJ? Cauliflower ear from BJJ can occur at any time. Every time you are training BJJ you could hurt ears and get cauliflower. You may get cauliflower ear on your first day of BJJ or it may take 10 years there is always a small chance every time you step on the mats.

Does Headgear Prevent Cauliflower Ear?

Does headgear prevent cauliflower ear? Yes, headgear does prevent cauliflower ear. Cauliflower ear results from trauma to the ear. Headgear prevents this trauma occurring as the hard plastic covering your ear does not allow your ear to be damaged.

Does Wrestling Give You Cauliflower Ears?

Does wrestling give you cauliflower ears? Yes, wrestling can give you cauliflower ears. In wrestling the ears are rubbed can suffer trauma from slamming into your opponent (particularly hips, knees, elbows, shoulders) or being hit when your opponent established grips. This trauma can separate the cartilage in the ear causing it to fill with blood resulting in cauliflower ear.

The vast majority of wrestlers have at one point in their career suffered from cauliflower ear. If you wrestle long enough it is bound to happen. Wrestling presents you with so many opportunities to get it that the odds of you wrestling for years without ever getting it are low.

The most common ways wrestlers get cauliflower ear is when they are wrestling ear to ear in the stand up position. Wrestlers will often grind their ears into their opponent’s head as they fight for superior position. This can damage the ear resulting in cauliflower ear. Another common way is when a wrestler shoots a takedown and their ear hits their opponent’s hip, knee or leg. This sudden trauma can cause the ear to immediately swell and fill with blood.

Why Do Some Wrestlers Get Cauliflower Ear?

Why do some wrestlers get cauliflower ear? Some wrestlers get cauliflower because they don’t wear a headgear. They wrestle ear to ear and grind their ear into their opponent. When they do hurt their ears they do not drain and compress them. Instead they continue training without a headgear without letting their ears heal.

Some wrestlers do not care about their ears or they even go as far as viewing cauliflower ear as a badge of honor. Wrestlers with these attitudes are less likely to treat their cauliflower ear (icing, draining, compressing, wearing headgear) which results in them suffering from permanent disfigurement.

Another reason some wrestlers get cauliflower ear and others don’t is the type of ears they have. If you have stiff ears which are difficult or painful to bend and fold in half then you are more susceptible to cauliflower ear. However if your ears can be folded into a ball easily and pain free you are less likely to suffer from cauliflower ear. It is similar to a stick vs rope, it is much easier to snap a stick than it is a rope.

How Long Does It Take To Get Cauliflower Ear From Wrestling?

How long does it take to get cauliflower ear from wrestling? You can get cauliflower ear from wrestling on first day of practice. Every time you train there is small chance of you getting cauliflower ear. The more you train the more likely you will eventually suffer from it. One blow to the ear during can cause cause cauliflower ear.

How To Avoid Cauliflower Ear In Wrestling?

How to avoid cauliflower ear in wrestling? To avoid cauliflower ear in wrestling you should wear your headgear all the time at every training session. You should wrestle forehead to forehead and avoid wrestling ear to ear. If you do hurt your ears make sure you ice and drain them and take some time off from training until they heal.

Even though your chances of eventually getting cauliflower ear in wrestling is high there are some things you can do to reduce your likelihood of ruining your ears:

  • Wear your headgear – it doesn’t matter if you are just drilling or play wrestling always wear your headgear at every training session, you do not know when you may hurt your ear
  • Wrestle forehead to forehead – in wrestling your head is a valuable weapon, however you do not have to use your ear, instead you can use your forehead to move your opponent around which will protect your ears
  • Drain your ears – if your ears fill with blood immediately drain them, continue to drain them until they are empty, if you don’t they will harden and your ear will be permanently disfigured
  • Compress your ears – after you drain your ears you need to compress them, if you don’t your ears will refill with blood and draining them will have been a waste of time as your ears will also end up being permanently disfigured
  • Rest – wait until your ears are healed, after you have hurt your ears they will be sensitive give them time to recover otherwise your chance of getting cauliflower ear again is more likely


Unfortunately cauliflower ear is extremely common in BJJ and wrestling. The ears are soft and delicate and they often can’t handle the abuse they are forced to endure during BJJ and wrestling. Cauliflower ear can occur every time you train so the likelihood of you eventually suffering it is high. Luckily you can avoid cauliflower ear and having  permanently ugly ears by always wearing your headgear, not rubbing your ear into your opponent and if you do hurt your ears making sure you immediately drain and compress them.


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