Cauliflower Ear

Cauliflower ear

Cauliflower ear is also known as hematoma auris. It is a deformity of the outer ear caused by repetitive friction or impact. It is common in Rugby and other contact sports, especially if you do not wear head protection.

Cauliflower ear signs & symptoms

Cauliflower ear is a result of repeated injury and so may be symptom-free.

The initial injuries are usually contusions, symptoms of which include pain, swelling and bruising.

Over time, the player develops a deformed appearance of the outer ear. In severe cases, their hearing may be affected. This is either a loss of hearing, or ringing in the ears known as tinnitus.

Treatment for Cauliflower ear

Initial treatment of contusions should be to apply the PRICE principles of protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation.

What can the player do?

  • Apply ice or a cold pack to the injured ear. It can be applied for 5 to 10 minutes but make sure you wrap the ice in a wet tea towel to avoid skin burns. The ear is sensitive with blood vessels close to the surface. Therefore it is important not to apply cold for long periods of time as this may damage tissues.
  • Compression helps reduce or even prevent swelling.
  • It is difficult to elevate your head any more than it normally is! Howver, be aware that if you are resting with your feet up and your head down, then this will not help reduce swelling around your ear.

What can a doctor do?

  • Anti-inflammatories may be prescribed by a doctor.
  • Blood may be drained through an incision in the skin of the ear and a compressive dressing applied.
  • Anti-biotics may be administered if necessary. These will treat or perhaps prevent bacterial infection, especially if you have an open wound.
  • If your Cauliflower ear causes hearing problems, then ideally you should be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist for further investigation.

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