Cauliflower ear is common among boxers, wrestlers, mixed martial artists and rugby players. When athletes experience a severe blow to their ear, blood begins to pool between cartilage, tissue and skin within the ear lobe. Draining and bandaging is the common treatment for cauliflower ear; however, draining increases your risk of ear infection. Treatments that promote tissue healing may work just as well as traditional cauliflower ear treatment. As with any sports injury, prevention and after care are crucial if you want to avoid surgery.
Begin treating an outer ear injury as soon as possible. Sometimes cuts, broken noses and black eyes might take precedence over your throbbing ear, but if you don't attend to your ears after injury, you risk irreversible ear deformity. When injured, tissues inside your ear lobe begin to bleed and the blood pools, separating skin from cartilage. As the blood sits inside your ear lobe, it hardens---keeping the separated tissues from healing. The separated cartilage in your ear lobe begins to die, becoming hard, gnarled and deformed. This is what causes cauliflower ear. The sooner you care for an injured ear, the less bleeding and tissue separation your ear will suffer.
Apply pressure to your outer ear after injury. Place two cotton balls on the upper lobe of your injured ear and wrap a thin bandage tightly around your head covering the cotton balls and your ears. When your ear lobe is full of blood, applying pressure helps the tissues to fuse back together and absorb the excess blood. If you can't bandage your ear, apply pressure with a soft cloth. Pressure needs to be applied to cauliflower ear for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours, for two to three days after injury.
Alternate heat and cold packs between pressure application. Firmly press a warm heating pad or warm towel against your injured ear and hold for 15 minutes. Heat will sooth the damaged tissues and reduce pain.
Immediately after the heat, hold an ice pack or cold towel on your injured ear for 10 minutes. Cold reduces swelling and bleeding.
Protect your ears from further damage. Special athletic headgear is available for various sports. Designed to be unobtrusive, padded head gear or head bands cover your ears and protect them from injury.
Existing cauliflower ear that has become hard and deformed can be corrected with plastic surgery. According to plastic surgeon Dr. Barry Eppley, hardened cartilage must be removed. Once the damaged tissue and cartilage are removed, your ear structure can be surgically shaped back to normal.
The results of reconstructive surgery will be compromised if you continue exposing your ears to injury.
- Find a qualified sports medicine physician experienced in treating outer ear injuries.
- Homeopathic treatment for hematoma can be useful in treating cauliflower ear; consult a homeopathic physician to explore natural treatments for cauliflower ear.
- Cauliflower ear left untreated can eventually close off your ear canal, causing hearing loss.
- Untreated cauliflower ear can become infected; if the infection spreads, you could suffer irreversible damage to your hearing and balance.