Can You Do BJJ Without Getting Cauliflower Ear?

Brazilian jiu jitsu, commonly known as BJJ, is a thrilling and physically demanding martial art that has gained immense popularity in recent years. However, one of the frequently discussed concerns among practitioners is the dreaded “cauliflower ear.”

But fear not, as we explore the world of BJJ and cauliflower ear, we’ll provide you with insights, tips, and expert opinions to help you make informed decisions about your training and well-being.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of BJJ and address all your burning questions about cauliflower ear, from its causes and prevention to its prevalence among different belt levels and famous fighters.

Why Do My Ears Hurt After Jiu-Jitsu?

BJJ is a martial art that involves a multitude of grappling techniques and ground fighting. It’s a sport that requires intense physical effort and dedication, and like any other combat sport, it comes with its own set of risks and injuries.

One of these risks is cauliflower ear, a condition that can be painful and unsightly.

If you’ve just started your BJJ journey, you might be wondering why your ears are feeling sore or tender after training. The answer lies in the nature of the sport.

BJJ involves close contact with your training partners, and your ears are vulnerable to being compressed, twisted, or rubbed during grappling sessions. This can result in soreness or discomfort in the ears.

Is Cauliflower Ear Common in Jiu-Jitsu?

Yes, cauliflower ear is relatively common in BJJ due to the nature of the sport.

The constant friction and pressure applied to the ears during training can lead to the development of this condition. However, the severity and frequency of cauliflower ear can vary from one practitioner to another.

Will I Get Cauliflower Ears From BJJ? Reddit Opinions

If you’re a member of the Reddit BJJ community, you’ve probably stumbled upon discussions about cauliflower ear and its likelihood in BJJ practitioners.

Opinions on this topic can vary widely. Some believe that cauliflower ear is almost inevitable in BJJ, while others argue that proper preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk.

Main Points
Some get cauliflower ear easily, some not at all.
Wrestled in high school and did BJJ for 5 years, no cauliflower ear.
Don’t worry about it; it’s not a big deal.
Wear earguards if concerned.
Headgear is a legitimate option to prevent cauliflower ear.
Describes stages of cauliflower ear and recommends headgear.
How you defend matters; head submissions can cause cauliflower ear.
Headgear can prevent cauliflower ear.
Avoid fighting out of guillotines and triangles to prevent it.
After 15 years of training, no noticeable cauliflower ear.
2 years of training without cauliflower ear so far.

The truth lies somewhere in between, and we’ll explore effective prevention strategies shortly.

How Quickly Does Cauliflower Ear Develop?

The cauliflower ear doesn’t develop overnight. It’s a gradual process that occurs due to repeated trauma to the ear. In most cases, it takes weeks or even months of consistent friction and pressure to cause noticeable changes in the shape and texture of the ear.

Who Is More Prone to Cauliflower Ear?

While anyone practicing BJJ can be at risk of developing cauliflower ear, some factors may increase your susceptibility. Factors like genetics, the intensity of training, and the frequency of high-friction situations during rolls can all contribute to a higher risk of developing this condition.

How Do You Know if You’re Prone to Cauliflower Ear?

Some individuals may be more prone to cauliflower ear due to genetic factors. But in fact, cauliflower ear can affect anyone who faces the possibility of head and ear trauma.

Medicine specialists highlight that risk factors encompass instances of blunt trauma, particularly in sports like boxing, MMA, wrestling, or water polo, as well as the utilization of blood-thinning medications.

Can You Do Jiu-Jitsu Without Getting Cauliflower Ears?

The million-dollar question for many BJJ practitioners is whether it’s possible to train in this martial art without the dreaded cauliflower ear.

The answer is yes, it is possible, but it requires a proactive approach to prevention.

Here are some factors to consider if you want to avoid cauliflower ears while doing Jiu-Jitsu:

  1. Rolling Style: Your rolling style and techniques can influence the likelihood of developing cauliflower ears. Techniques that involve a lot of ear-to-mat contact, such as certain escapes or defensive maneuvers, may increase the risk. Being aware of these situations and making an effort to protect your ears during training can help.
  2. Headgear: Wearing protective headgear during training can significantly reduce the risk of cauliflower ear. Headgear provides a barrier that prevents direct contact between your ears and your training partner’s body or the mat. Many Jiu-Jitsu practitioners use headgear as a preventive measure.
  3. Technique and Defense: Proper technique is crucial in Jiu-Jitsu. Learning how to execute moves correctly and efficiently can reduce the chances of struggling and experiencing intense friction on your ears during training. Additionally, having solid defensive skills can help you avoid situations where your ears may be at risk.
  4. Communication: Communicate with your training partners about your concerns regarding cauliflower ear. Experienced practitioners often understand the importance of protecting their training partners, and they can help you avoid situations that may lead to ear injuries.
  5. Self-Care: If you do experience minor ear irritation or swelling, take care of it promptly. Applying ice, resting, and wearing headgear for a brief period can help prevent the condition from worsening.
Cauliflower Ear bjj
Cauliflower Ear BJJ

Should I Ice My Ear After BJJ?

Icing your ear after BJJ can be beneficial, especially if you experience discomfort or swelling.

Applying an ice pack to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. However, it’s crucial to use a cloth or towel to protect your skin from direct contact with the ice to avoid frostbite.

How Do You Avoid Cauliflower Ear in BJJ?

Preventing cauliflower ear is all about taking proactive measures to protect your ears during training.

Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Wear Ear Guards: Invest in high-quality ear guards designed specifically for BJJ. These protective devices can significantly reduce the risk of cauliflower ear by providing a barrier between your ears and your training partners.
  • Proper Technique: Focus on perfecting your technique, which can minimize the chances of unintentional ear trauma during rolls.
  • Communication: As already mentioned, communicate with your training partners. If you feel excessive pressure on your ears or notice that your partner’s ear is in a vulnerable position, speak up and adjust your positions accordingly.
  • Regular Checkups: Visit a doctor or healthcare professional regularly to monitor your ear health. Early intervention can prevent minor issues from becoming more severe.
  • Rest and Recovery: Give your ears time to rest and recover. Avoid consecutive days of intense training to allow your ears to heal.

Does Headgear Prevent Cauliflower Ear?

Headgear, also known as ear guards or wrestling headgear, can be an effective tool in preventing cauliflower ear. These protective devices are designed to provide a cushioned barrier around your ears, reducing the risk of injury during training.

How Do You Prevent Cauliflower Ear Without Headgear?

If you prefer not to wear headgear or are looking for additional preventive measures, consider the following:

  • Ear Maintenance: After training sessions, clean your ears with a gentle, antiseptic solution to prevent infection in case of minor injuries.
  • Tape Your Ears or Use Specialized Protective Gear From the Market: Some BJJ practitioners use medical tape to secure their ears in a folded position during training. This can help protect the ears from friction and pressure. Also, there are specialized protective gear or wrestlers’ ears on the market. Research the market to find the best option for your needs.
  • Rotate Training Partners: Avoid training exclusively with partners known for applying excessive pressure on your ears. Rotate partners to vary the intensity and minimize the risk of injury.

How to Avoid Cauliflower Ear BJJ Reddit Advice

The Reddit BJJ community offers a wealth of advice and tips on avoiding cauliflower ears.

Here are some common recommendations from fellow practitioners:

Wear headgear or be cautious with triangle escapes
Treat cauliflower ear like any other injury, seek medical help if needed
Cauliflower ear doesn’t always warrant a trip to the emergency room
Go to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist) for treatment
Draining cauliflower ear yourself can lead to infection
Don’t yank your head out of headlocks to prevent cauliflower ear
Drain cauliflower ear promptly when it occurs
Avoid compressing/squeezing your ears during training
Don’t let people smash or grind your ears during training
Avoid pulling your head out of tight triangles
Use ear protection when needed
Don’t engage in positions where your ears are compressed/squeezed
Don’t engage in rough collar ties or snap downs that can harm your ears
Know how to escape front headlocks without excessive force on your ears
Wear ear protection if your gym allows it
Drain your ear and protect it for a few days when it feels hot and soft
Don’t have big floppy ears (genetics may play a role)
Know how to find a professional to drain your ear if needed
Apply compression after draining cauliflower ear
Avoid rolling with people who go too hard
Drain cauliflower ear promptly and wear headgear during recovery
Use wrestling headgear or a scrum cap if necessary

How Do You Drain Your Ears in BJJ?

If you do experience swelling or fluid buildup in your ear, you may consider draining it. However, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional or a qualified practitioner for this procedure. Attempting to drain your ear at home can lead to infection or further complications.

Can I Train After Draining the Ear?

Training immediately after draining your ear is not advisable. You should give your ear ample time to heal and recover. Consult with a medical professional for guidance on when it’s safe to return to training.

How Do You Keep Cauliflower Ears From Refilling?

Preventing cauliflower ear from refilling involves maintaining good ear health practices. After draining, continue to clean and care for your ears to prevent fluid accumulation. Additionally, consider wearing protective headgear during training to reduce the risk of reinjury.

To prevent cauliflower ear from refilling, it’s essential to take proper care and follow these steps:

  1. Immediate Draining: As soon as you notice your ear swelling, it’s crucial to drain it immediately. You can do this by using a sterile needle or visiting a medical professional who is experienced in ear drainage. Drainage helps remove the fluid buildup and relieves pressure on the ear.
  2. Apply Pressure: After draining, apply pressure to the affected area for an extended period, often up to 48 hours. This step is crucial to ensure that the skin adheres back to the cartilage properly.
  3. Ear Protection: To prevent further trauma to the ear, wear ear protection, such as headgear or a wrestling cap, while training. This is especially important when rolling or sparring with partners who may accidentally strike your ear.
  4. Avoid Trauma: Be mindful during training to avoid positions and situations that could lead to additional ear trauma. Avoid grinding your ear against your training partner’s body or resisting when your ear is caught in a submission.
  5. Regular Checkups: Keep an eye on your ear after training sessions. If you notice any signs of swelling or tenderness, address it promptly to prevent further buildup of fluids.
  6. Avoid High-Impact Activities: If possible, avoid high-impact activities or sports that can increase the risk of ear injury, such as wrestling or striking martial arts. Consider adjusting your training style or focusing on techniques that minimize ear contact.
  7. Seek Professional Help: If the swelling persists or if you experience complications like infection or persistent pain, consult a healthcare professional, preferably one with experience in treating cauliflower ear. They can provide appropriate medical care and advice.

Remember that preventing cauliflower ear from refilling largely depends on quick action and ongoing protection.

Promptly addressing any swelling, applying pressure, and using protective gear are key strategies to minimize the risk of recurrence.

Do All BJJ Black Belts Have Cauliflower Ear?

No, not all BJJ black belts have cauliflower ear.

While it’s true that many experienced practitioners may have minor ear deformities, the severity of cauliflower ear varies greatly among individuals. Some black belts may have never experienced it, while others may have taken proactive measures to prevent it.

Can a White Belt Get Cauliflower Ear?

Yes, even white belts can develop cauliflower ear. The risk is present at all skill levels in BJJ, and it primarily depends on individual factors and the precautions taken during training.


What Percentage of Wrestlers Get Cauliflower Ear?

The prevalence of cauliflower ear among wrestlers can vary, but it’s relatively common, especially among those who have been involved in the sport for an extended period. Exact percentages may be challenging to determine due to differences in reporting and prevention measures.

Is Cauliflower Ear Respected?

Cauliflower ear is generally not a measure of respect in the BJJ community. It’s considered a potential consequence of intense training and grappling, rather than a badge of honor.

Can You Get Cauliflower Ear From One Hit?

Cauliflower ear typically develops over time due to repeated trauma or injury to the outer ear, rather than from a single hit. It’s not common for cauliflower ear to occur from a single blow.

The condition is more commonly associated with sports or activities where the ear is subjected to repetitive and significant trauma, such as:

  1. Wrestling: Wrestlers are particularly prone to cauliflower ear because their ears are often exposed to repeated friction and pressure during matches.
  2. BJJ: BJJ practitioners can develop cauliflower ear because of the close contact and manipulation of the head and ears during ground grappling.
  3. Boxing: While boxers can experience ear injuries, it’s less common for a single punch to cause cauliflower ear. Instead, it typically results from prolonged exposure to head strikes over time.
  4. Rugby: Rugby players may develop cauliflower ear from scrums, tackles, and rucks, where head and ear contact are common.
  5. MMA: MMA fighters can be at risk of cauliflower ear due to various techniques and positions that can result in ear trauma.

In these sports and activities, cauliflower ear usually develops gradually as a result of the continuous friction, pressure, and impact that the ears endure.

If someone experiences a single significant blow to the ear, it can cause immediate swelling and bruising, but it may not necessarily result in cauliflower ear unless they continue to subject their ear to repeated trauma without proper care and protection.

The Impact of Cauliflower Ear on BJJ Practitioners

Cauliflower ear is more than just a physical condition; it can also have psychological and social implications for BJJ practitioners. Let’s explore how cauliflower ear can affect individuals in the BJJ community.

Psychological Impact

  1. Self-Esteem: Developing cauliflower ear can lower self-esteem for some practitioners. They may feel self-conscious about their appearance, especially if the deformity is noticeable.
  2. Psychological Stress: The pain and discomfort associated with cauliflower ear can lead to psychological stress. This stress can affect both training and daily life.
  3. Fear of Recurrence: Once you’ve experienced cauliflower ear, you may fear its recurrence, leading to anxiety during training.

Social Impact

  1. Stigma: Some individuals may experience stigmatization due to their cauliflower ear, as it can be mistaken for a sign of aggression.
  2. Social Isolation: People with cauliflower ear may avoid social situations or dating due to concerns about how others perceive them.
  3. Supportive Communities: On the flip side, the BJJ community can also be incredibly supportive. Many practitioners understand the challenges of cauliflower ear and offer encouragement and advice.

Famous BJJ Fighters With Cauliflower Ear

Cauliflower ear is not limited to amateurs or lesser-known practitioners. Even some of the most famous BJJ fighters have experienced it. Here are a few notable examples:

  1. Ronda Rousey: The former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion and Olympic judoka has also displayed cauliflower ear.
  2. Andre Galvao: A highly decorated BJJ black belt and multiple-time World Champion, Galvao has visible cauliflower ear.
  3. Marcus Almeida “Buchecha”: A dominant figure in modern BJJ, Buchecha’s cauliflower ear is a reminder of his intense training and competition history.

These examples demonstrate that cauliflower ear is a common occurrence among top-level BJJ fighters.


In the world of BJJ, the cauliflower ear is a concern for many practitioners. However, with the right knowledge and preventive measures, you can enjoy the benefits of this fantastic martial art without succumbing to this common issue.

Remember, the BJJ community is supportive, and many experienced practitioners are willing to share their knowledge and advice on how to protect your ears. So, keep rolling, keep learning, and keep your ears safe.

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