Cauliflower ears are a common concern for rugby players, certainly for forwards, it can just come with the territory. Fortunately with the right prevention methods and equipment, it is possible to minimize rather than remove all together, the risk.
Wear a Scrumcap or Ear Protection Guard.
Wearing a scrumcap or protection guard when playing rugby is the best way to prevent cauliflower ears. These protective pieces of gear can be made from a variety of materials, and come in a range of sizes and designs. Be sure to choose one that fits comfortably and securely on your head. Also be sure to check that it has been approved for use with your World Rugby, they have a list of all approved devices here .With headgear, there is less surface area for your ear to make contact with other players. This reduces the chances of external trauma which could cause an injury and lead to cauliflower ears.
Ear protection guards are a bit less recognised in rugby but are popular in other contact sports like wrestling or MMA where cauliflower ears are also an issue. These are often made from silicon rubber and ideal for those who don’t like te enclosed feel of a scrumcap. There are also products out there which can be used in conjunction with a scrumcap like Caulear Ear Shields these are bespoke moulded protectors which fit inside the ear.
Clean and Compress Your Ears Quickly After an Injury Occurs.
The two most common causes of cauliflower ears in rugby are a direct blow to the ear or constant pressure from scrummaging. Particularly for players in the front five, it’s important to keep an eye on your ears after games and training sessions, if you notice swelling or any abrasions clean and apply a cold compress. Continue to apply periodically until the swelling goes down and seek medical advice if the swelling does not improve.
Draining Cauliflower Ears?
Whilst very common in wrestling or BJJ circles, for whatever reason, draining of cauliflower ears doesn’t seem to be as popular in rugby circles. Perhaps there is a bit of machismo involved, or even more likely, it’s so common its seen as part of the game. In any event, should you wish to drain the ear of fluid, please seek medical advice rather than the 100’s of youtube videos showing DIY methods.
Ear Compression Magnets
Another popular choice with other contact sports but yet to make waves in rugby would be ear compression magnets. Whilst there are a fair few varieties of these on offer, the basic concept is two small magnets sit eaither side of the ear and compress it. This prevents the ear from swelling again post draining, so potentially the magnets would be more popular if draining was more prevelant.
You are the cure
There is really no way of predicting how your ears will react to the pressures of rugby, so it’s important to be wary of any changes and act accordingly. If you are a forward and are noticing any difference with your ears after games, try a scrumcap or taping your ears. Whilst the front and second rows are more likely to suffer from cauliflower ears, it really depends on how your ears react to the battle. For every Graham Rowntree, there is a Codie Taylor, (see below) both of these players spent their entire career in the front row, only one of these players has a World Cup Winners medal. Clue: It’s not the one with the ears!