Why Do Rugby Players Get Cauliflower Ears?

If you have watched rugby you will have seen that many players have deformed and ugly. The deformity is known as cauliflower ear where the ear has been damaged, causing it to fill with blood which has then hardened, leading to permanent disfigurement. Cauliflower ear is highly prevalent in rugby due to the ears copping a lot of abuse.

What Is Cauliflower Ear?

What is cauliflower ear? Cauliflower ear is the result of the outer portion of the ear being damaged which leads to the connective tissue within the ear to separating from the cartilage. At the same blood vessels located within the ear bleed resulting in the ear swelling.

Why do rugby players get cauliflower ears? 

 Rugby players get cauliflower ears due their ears suffering friction and trauma as they rubbed, hit and slammed during tackling, scrumming and mauling. Years of this abuse can permanently injure your ears resulting in cauliflower ear .

What Causes Cauliflower Ear In Rugby:

  • Scrumming – nearly all front row forwards have cauliflower ear, their ears are being constantly smashed and rubbed as they go to head to head with opposition during the scrum
  • Tackling – one big collision where your ear hits your opposition’s knee or hip can injure your ear and cause cauliflower ear
  • Mauling – just like scrumming having your ears violently rub against your teammates and opposition causes high amounts of friction which can damage your ear
  • The Breakdown– when you are standing over the ball you can easily take a hit to your ear as your opposition cleans you out, or when you are cleaning out you can strike your against your opposition’s head, elbow or knee disfiguring your ear

Is Cauliflower Ear From Rugby Permanent?

Is cauliflower ear from rugby permanent? 

Cauliflower ear caused by rugby is permanent if the liquid inside your ear solidifies. This occurs after 4-7 days. If you don’t want permanently defored ears you need to treat them before the fluid hardens. It can take up to 3 weeks before the separated cartilage within your ear reattaches. If the liquid in your ear has hardened your only option is ear reconstructive surgery.

How Do You Avoid Cauliflower Ear From Rugby?

How do you avoid cauliflower ear from rugby? 

To avoid cauliflower ear from rugby you need to wear a scrum cap or tape your ears. This will reduce the amount of friction and trauma your ears will suffer. If you do hurt your ears you need to treat them straight away by draining and compressing them. Do not return to rugby until your ear is healed.

Your best option to avoid cauliflower ear from rugby is to strap on a scrum cap. Scrum caps are highly effective at reducing your chance of hurting your ears because they significantly reduce the amount of rubbing your ears endure which is a major cause of cauliflower ear in rugby. 

Scrum caps do not offer perfect protection as they are soft they won’t offer much protection from a strong blow to the ear such as smashing your ear into your opposition’s hip or knee which can lead to cauliflower ear.

Even though scrum caps offer good protection against cauliflower they are still quite rare. I would say probably around 10%-20% of rugby players actually wear them. I guess this is why you see so many rugby players with cauliflower ear jogging around the rubgy pitch.

What position you play in rugby can help you avoid getting cauliflower ear. If you are a hooker at the centre of every scrum and constantly burrowing into the bottom of rucks then your chance of getting cauliflower is through the roof. On the other hand if you are a nippy scrum-half who wouldn’t be caught dead putting his head over a breakdown then your ears will thank you because they aren’t likely to suffer much abuse. If you don’t mind switching from the front row to the wing you will greatly reduce your chance of suffering cauliflower ear however, I don’t know how your coach will feel about your career change.

How Do I Treat Cauliflower From Rugby?

  • Drain your ears – you need to get the blood out of your ear, the only way is to drain them by syringing the blood out with a needle, continue to drain them until all the blood is gone, draining your ear is the secret to preventing permanent deformity
  • Compress your ears – after you drain your ears you need to compress them, if you don’t your ears they will refill with blood and you will be constantly draining them, you can use magnets or a head bandage to tightly compress your ears
  • Rest – you to wait until your ear heals, if you don’t wait until they heal even a small amount of friction or a minor blow can cause your ear to refill with blood

Why do rugby players cover their ears?

Rugby players cover their ears to reduce the amount of friction they suffer particularly scrummaging, tackling and mauling. Covering their ears reduces the chance of rugby players suffering cauliflower ear and lacerations.

When Can I Play Rugby After Cauliflower Ear?

When can I play rugby after cauliflower ear? You can return to the rugby pitch immediately after suffering cauliflower ear as long as you wear a headgear and compress your ear; however, it may be painful and you risk worsening your ear. It is best to wait until your ear is no longer sensitive to touch and is not refilling with blood (takes 3-6 days).

If you don’t look after your ears when you return to rugby you are highly susceptible to reinjuring your ears as even a minor blow can further damage the cartilage. Even a minor bump can result in your ear ear refilling with blood. If you don’t want to be dealing with prolonged symptoms of cauliflower ear just nip it in the bud by taking a few days off and not training until your is back to normal.

Does Cauliflower Ear From Rugby Have Long Term Side Effects?

Does cauliflower ear from rugby have long term side effects? 

Yes, cauliflower ear from rugby does have long term side effects. Long term side effects include tinnitus higher incidence rate of ear infections, deafness and wax build up

The long term side effects of cauliflower are rarely serious and typically only affect those with serious cauliflower who have neglected to treat their condition over many years. If you don’t want to suffer some of these nasty side effects just follow the prevention and treatment regimes mentioned above.

How Long Does It Take To Get Cauliflower Ear From Rugby?

How long does it take to get cauliflower ear from Rugby? Cauliflower ear from rugby can happen anytime you step on the pitch. If you are playing rugby there is always a chance you may take a blow to the ear. Cauliflower ear may occur during your first rugby match or on a random training session 8 years into your career.

Do Scrum Caps Prevent Cauliflower Ear?

Does scrum cap prevent cauliflower ear? Yes, scrump caps do prevent cauliflower ear. Cauliflower ear is caused by trauma and friction. Scrum caps reduce the friction and trauma by covering your ears with firm padding.

Why Do Some Rugby Players Get Cauliflower Ear?

Why do some rugby players get cauliflower ear? Some rugby players get cauliflower ear because they don’t wear a scrum cap or tape their ears. And when they do get cauliflower they forgo treatment (draining, icing, compressing) and return to training before it heals. Forwards, particularly front row forwards are most likely to get cauliflower due to scrummaging and mauling. 

Many rugby players aren’t the best looking blokes in the first so they aren’t too concerned about the aesthetic appeal of their ears. Others take it a step further by being proud of their deformed ears and viewing them as a badge of honor or symbol of their rugby prowess. These rugby players often do not bother treating their cauliflower ear and they end up with ears that are forever deformed.

The type of ears a rugby player has can also impact their likelihood of getting cauliflower ear. If your ears are not flexible and are painful to fold in half then you are more likely to suffer cauliflower ear. On the other hand if you have floppy ears that can be folded into a ball then thank your parents because that may keep your ears looking pretty. 


If you play rugby especially in the forwards you are bound to experience cauliflower ear sooner or later. Your ears are not fit to endure the abuse that the sport of rugby will throw at them. You never know when you might get your first bout of cauliflower ear as it  can occur at any time. Fortunately, you can prevent cauliflower ear and ending up looking like Shrek by wearing a scrum cap and taping your ears. If you do get cauliflower ear, don’t panic if you drain your ear, compress it and wait until it hardens your ear will heal, it won’t be exactly like it was before but the damage will be barely noticeable

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