What is cauliflower ear and why does it occur?

The practice of exercise is an activity that helps maintain the good health of the body. However, athletes can have different injuries. The cauliflower ear is one of the most common in contact sports.

The medical term for this condition is auris hematoma and it is an irreversible deformity of the ear resulting from a strong trauma or repeated blows to the area. This abnormality is common in people who play rugby, wrestling, or mixed martial arts.

Cauliflower ear is more prevalent in men than women. In this way, studies have shown that up to 84% of fighters and judokas males possess abnormality. Despite being irreversible, there are various treatments capable of improving the condition.

Main symptoms of cauliflower ear

The anatomical alteration of the ear will be evident from the first moment it occurs, so only a direct observation will be necessary to confirm its existence. It will be abnormally shaped, enlarged, folded over on itself and with irregular curves, resembling the appearance of a cauliflower.

The symptoms presented in the first minutes did not differ from that reported by a patient with trauma to any part of the body. In this sense, people can present the following changes in the area:

  • Intense pain.
  • Redness
  • Swelling.
  • Volume increase.
  • Warm to the touch.

The cauliflower ear is common in boxing, but it is not the only circumstance in which it appears.

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What are the complications if it is not treated?

The main complication is aesthetic, since is capable of producing complete deformation of the pinna in the most extreme cases. In addition, studies have shown that this condition has the ability to obstruct the external auditory canal and cause hearing problems.

On the other hand, there is evidence linking cauliflower ear with deafness. In addition, patients with the deformity are more likely to develop ear infections than those who do not.

For many years it was believed that the pathology was associated with dementiaHowever, it was concluded that the neurological symptoms developed were the result of constant blows to the head. Other common complications in patients with cauliflower ear include the following:

  • Sudden headache
  • Blurry vision.
  • Perception of strange noises.

Why does cauliflower ear occur?

As already said, This deformation occurs from a strong blow or repeated trauma to the ear. This action will generate the formation of a hematoma, which will detach the auricular cartilage from the perichondrium, a tissue that provides it with the necessary nutrients.

It is important to remember that the pinna is made of cartilage, so it does not have direct blood supply. In this way, it acquires the nutrients for its maintenance through the perichondrium, an attached connective tissue that has a large blood supply.

The auricular cartilage will not be able to receive the nutrients necessary for its maintenance as a result of the separation, so the cells that compose it will die. This will cause the hematoma produced to fold in on itself and there will be an excessive production of fibrous connective tissue.

Both the doubling of the hematoma and the proliferation of scar tissue will be the factors that give the abnormal configuration to the pinna.

Available treatments

Timely medical attention is able to prevent cartilage death and improve the physical appearance of the ear. In this sense, ice the area is recommended to try to reduce bleeding and thus avoid the appearance of a large hematoma.

The specialist may try to drain localized blood through an incision. This is because syringe aspiration has been shown to be insufficient. Once the blood is drained, the doctor will proceed to join the tissues with stitches.

The treating doctor will recommend applying constant pressure to the affected ear in order to prevent another hematoma from occurring. In addition, the pinna is an area prone to infection, so the specialist may recommend the use of antibiotics.

This is a deformation that can recur in many patients, which is why the affected side should be checked frequently.

Corrective surgery

When the cauliflower ear itself is produced it is possible to perform a surgical procedure called otoplasty, which will seek to improve the physical appearance of the ear. It is important to note that it will not return to its total normality, however, it can be given a more aesthetic appearance.

The procedure consists of exposing the auricular cartilage in its posterior part. Once exposed, the specialist will proceed to remove some portions of it looking for a more anatomical configuration.

It is a quick surgery that does not involve major complicationshowever, general anesthesia may be necessary. Recovery time does not exceed 6 weeks.

Cauliflower ear can be associated with a narrowing of the ear canal, which leads to hearing loss.

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Cauliflower ear prevention and recommendations

Immediate medical attention is the best prevention mechanism; by draining the hematoma in the first minutes it is possible to avoid the appearance of the cauliflower ear. Many sports have initiated the implementation of helmets, which prevent blows to the ears and head injuries.

It is important that the helmet to be used is of the correct size and that it covers the ears to guarantee the best protection. In the case of children who play contact sports, it is important to make coaches aware of the importance of medical attention when the injury occurs.

A recommendation that can be followed is avoid taking blood thinners before playing contact sports. These drugs are capable of promoting bleeding, producing a larger hematoma. However, this action should always be consulted with the doctor.

A permanent injury that is a symbol of pride

Despite causing a total deformation of the pinna, cauliflower ear is proudly worn by many mixed martial arts fighters. It is considered as a sign of respect and an evidence of your commitment to the sport.

However, it must be borne in mind that it is an injury to a part of the body and should not be underestimated. This deformity can lead to hearing problems, so corrective surgery should not be ruled out under any circumstances.