If you watch almost any form of professional fighting like boxing or MMA, or even a sport like Rugby – you may have seen the ears of such athletes look swollen and deformed. In the image of Randy Couture above is a great example of what I mean. It’s known as couliflower ear and its very common amongst extreme sports athletes, but just what is it exactly?
Cauliflower ear (also hematoma auris, perichondrial hematoma, and Traumatic auricular hematoma ) is a condition most common among boxers, amateur wrestlers, rugby players, mixed martial artists, and grapplers. If the external portion of the ear suffers a blow, a blood clot or other fluid may collect under the perichondrium. This separates the cartilage from the overlying perichondrium that is its source of nutrients, causing the cartilage to die. This leads to a formation of fibrous tissue in the overlying skin. When this happens, the outer ear becomes permanently swollen and deformed, resembling a cauliflower.
Fluid collection in the outer ear can be treated by draining the fluid and applying a compressing tie to the outer ear to reconnect the perichondrium and the cartilage. The compressing tie will be left in place for around 9 days to prevent the fluid from building up again.
The outer ear is prone to infections, so antibiotics are usually prescribed. If the pressure is left alone without medical intervention, the ear can suffer serious damage. Pressure can build up and eventually rupture the ear drum. When this occurs, the ear may further wrinkle, and can become slightly pale; hence the common term “cauliflower ear”. Should the ear drum rupture, the only treatment option is to heal the existing wound with stitches. Even with treatment, significant hearing loss may occur. Cosmetic procedures are available which can greatly improve the appearance of the ear, even though internal damage may persist.