In most martial arts, injuries come with the territory. And with any sport where the head gets smushed, you often see fighters with those misshapen ears. But, can you get cauliflower ear from Muay Thai?
Here’s what I discovered:
One can get cauliflower ear from Muay Thai. However, it is not common in Muay Thai fighters. It’s a condition that is highly prevalent in most contact sports that involve grappling on the ground and in a Gi, where the possibility of having one’s ears hit or bruised is high.
It is a deformation of the ear triggered because of a blood clot which could result in a withering and folding in of a part of the ear. It is a lot common among MMA fighters. In fact, some of the greatest MMA fighters have them.
In this article, we’ll focus on its incidence in Muay Thai.
Is it common, or is it rare? We’ll look at how you get cauliflower ear, whether one can do MT without getting it and whether a headgear helps. We’ll also check out whether all fighters get it and whether Conor McGregor has it.
Let’s get to it…
Famous photo of “Sailor” Tom Sharkey with his cauliflower ear & sailing ship tattoo. Sharkey took up boxing during his 11 year navy stint & later fought James Jeffries for the world title, their two battles among the most brutal ever fought. #Heavyweight #History #Boxing #Legend pic.twitter.com/BuIuVrNHd6
— Heavyweight History (@HVYWeightHeroes) May 12, 2021
How do you get cauliflower ears?
Cauliflower is the result of trauma that affects the ears, which frequently occurs in contact sports. A hit to the ear or the ear getting smushed could trigger hematomas — small collections of blood that block the flow of nutrients and blood, leading to a deformity. It occurs when the cartilage is bruised.
The medical term for it is perichondrial hematoma — essentially the swelling of the ear caused by a blood clot.
Let’s face it. It’s almost inevitable that you would be bruised or hit in the course of doing Muay Thai. When the impact is directed at the ear, it could be so serious that it blocks blood flow in the ear and can separate the skin from the cartilage resulting in blood clots.
It becomes a bruise that fails to heal! In time, the part of the cartilage that’s robbed of blood may wither and fold in on the other part of the ear that’s still relatively healthy. This is what gives rise to the cauliflower look.
It’s not always triggered by a direct hit. It could develop if you fell awkwardly while a fight is going on. Cauliflower ear can also be because of an infection in the ear lobe.
Wear your wrestling headgear in practice to prevent cauliflower ear
— NCH Sports Medicine (@NCHSportsMed) November 11, 2020
Can you do Muay Thai without getting cauliflower ear?
Cauliflower ear is not common in Muay Thai. But, to lower the chances of getting it, fighters can wear headgear and seek medical treatment anytime swelling in the ears is noticed.
That’s not to say that some Muay Thai fighters do not have it. Cauliflower ear is more common in martial arts where there are a lot of direct hits to the head and a lot of grappling and ground fights.
Therefore, one can do Muay Thai without getting a cauliflower ear. Muay Thai is fought standing, and it’s a striking art form. So, it’s easier to protect your ears if you work on your defense.
If your reflexes are sharp and you’re nimble, you’ll be able to see most moves coming, and you’d be able to block them before they reach you, especially if they are directed at your head.
After all, that’s the easiest way to get to the ears.
If your gym allows it, the best thing to do is to use headgear. Yeah, you get to protect the whole head, not just the ears. They are effective but do not negate the need to be very alert and to have a great defense.
Garry Tonon’s Takes Pride In His “Cauliflower Ears” – https://t.co/7XF4g9KSKV #FightNewsAsia #FightNews #boxing #MMA #Muaythai #KickBoxing #Fight pic.twitter.com/li95kfqjEA
— Fightnews Asia (@fightnews_asia) August 30, 2018
Does headgear stop cauliflower ear?
Headgear helps stop cauliflower ear because it acts as a form of protection around the whole head, including the ear. That protection can help prevent blood from clotting around the ear.
Cauliflower ear is triggered when the ear is bruised, and a blood clot is formed, which eventually leads to a part of the ear withering and folding in on itself. Headgear protects the ear.
Therefore it stops the flowering of cauliflower ear.
Motorcyclists wear helmets to protect their heads. It’s the same thing here, headgear protects the whole head. They are designed to be comfortable, effective, and even gentle on the training partner or opponent’s skin.
There are straps at the top and the bottom so that you can adjust them to fit you.
But, it may not be allowed in some gyms. So, the best thing would be to work on your defense skills and conditioning. Be nimble and ensure that you’re light on your feet.
After all, even if you’ve got the gear on, it’s meant to be a “last resort.” It’s not like you’ll simply wait and get clipped simply because you’ve got it on, right?
Who do you think is going to win if a boxer and a Muay Thai fighter were to have a go at it?
A Muay Thai fighter would beat a boxer. Both are hip to boxing, and the MT fighter also has other weapons up his sleeve. They include elbow and knee strikes which are incredibly devastating. In a recent article of mine, I shared more details on why MT is better than boxing.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Screw you cauliflower ear!!! Because of you I can only sleep on the left side of my body!!#headgear!!! pic.twitter.com/AnRWUArVVq
— Brett (@dagrappler160) February 13, 2014
Do all fighters get cauliflower ear?
Most stand-up fighters do not get cauliflower ear. But it is common in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Judo because of techniques that involve heavily smushing an opponent on the ground.
The type of martial art and how gung ho the fighter is about winning are the most vital factors. In MMA, for example, most fighters have them. But, it’s not so common in Muay Thai.
It’s probably because MT is fought standing and because hits can be trained on different facets of the body. While in MMA, most fighters want to take the fight to the ground, where there’s usually a lot of grappling, in addition to repeated blows to the head!
In martial arts fought standing, and where there is little grappling, the incidence of cauliflower ear is low.
It’s relevant to say that a lot of fighters probably don’t know how damaging cauliflower ears are. This is why some crave them and even wear them as a badge of honor!
To them, it shows you’re badass and that you’ve paid your dues.
How likely is cauliflower ear in Judo? Check out a recent article of mine where I explained that one can get cauliflower ears and that this is often not the result of being thrown to the ground but rather that of being held in some uncomfortable chokeholds!
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Let’s go champ! 🇮🇪💪👊💚❤ destroy Khabib, can’t handle his cauliflower ears! 😜 @TheNotoriousMMA #UFC229 @ufc #ufc @danawhite @UFCONFOX @UFCNews @UFCTonight #ConorMcGregor #irishdoitbetter 🥃🍺🥃 pic.twitter.com/9CBfRiWuWD
— Mandi (@mandimaiden) October 4, 2018
Does Conor McGregor have cauliflower ear?
Conor McGregor has cauliflower ears. They are deformed, as can be seen from videos and photographs. It is a swelling on the upper part of his ears. One has never seen him wearing headgear or ear protection.
This direct exposure of the ears is what makes it likely for a fighter to have cauliflower ears.
Conor McGregor is known for his fortitude —- the kind of fighter that fights on even when he has injuries. Little wonder, he’s got cauliflower ears, a condition that’s prevalent among the most high-intensity stars.
Khabib, GSP, Jones…all have it, too.
Despite starting as a plumber’s apprentice, he has a background that makes him a formidable fighter, and that explains why it’s likely he would end up with deformed ears. Before becoming an MMA fighter, he’s experienced boxing, karate, and BJJ.
MT is supposed to be one of the most lethal martial arts. But, can you use Muay Thai in a street fight?
It’s a good question. And you’re in luck, seeing as that’s what a recent article of mine is about. In it, I explained that it can be used in a street fight seeing as MT fighters have been trained to use different parts of their body as weapons. They also go through training regimes that help condition their bodies.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
In the article, we learned that one can get cauliflower ears from Muay Thai but that it’s not common.
We looked at how one gets it, whether one can do MT without getting it, and how effective headgear is in preventing them. We also addressed the question of whether all fighters get them.
And we wrapped things up by checking whether Conor McGregor has them.
Photo which requires attribution:
Cauliflower ear drainage Compilation by Mr.T was taken from a video still frame, cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added and is licensed under CC2.0.