What is cauliflower ear?

Cauliflower ear is the result of direct trauma to the outer ear which is made up primarily of flexible hyaline cartilage. This trauma results in an accumulation of blood known as a hematoma, which distorts and distends the normal contours of the outer ear. If the hematoma becomes large enough from repeated trauma, it restricts the blood flow into and out of the area. The hematoma will eventually turn into fibrotic tissue if not treated with aspiration. This condition is common in those individuals who sustain repeated trauma to the outer ear like boxers and wrestlers.
Cauliflower ear occurs when the outer ear suffers an impact, which happens most commonly in wrestlers. The ear becomes swollen and red. The buildup of fluid separates the cartilage in the ear, causing it to die, thus resulting of the formation of fibrous tissue in the overlying skin. The outer ear is prone to infection, so antibiotics can be used to treat it. Also, the athlete should see a doctor, because the ear could become infected and cause serious harm. Proper protection (such as wrestling headgear) should be worn as well.

(This answer provided for NATA by the Georgia College & State University Athletic Training Education Program.)

Cauliflower ear is a malformation of the outer ear, usually caused by repeated blows to the ear. The resulting blood clot interferes with blood flow to the cartilage, killing it and causing the ear to look swollen or shriveled. Cauliflower ear is most common in boxers and wrestlers.

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Ear Disorders

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.