Have you spotted rugby players with unusual and deformed Cauliflower ears? Here's why it happens...

Cauliflower ears, they’re not pretty, that’s for sure.

Look closely at any given rugby game and you are likely to spot some pretty bizarre formations from sides of heads.

Ranging from slightly swollen to full on Lord of the Rings orc levels, some players look like putting on a pair of sunglasses on a sunny day could be a real challenge.

So what is a Cauliflower ear?

The first thing to note here is, it’s actually an irreversible condition and Cauliflower ear is its official name.

It occurs when the external portion of the ear is hit and develops a blood clot – which separates it from the cartilage and essentially stops the supply of nutrients causing it to die!

The result of this sees a formation of fibrous tissue to the outer ear, making it permanently swollen or deformed.

How do rugby players get a Cauliflower ear?

Normally the main players who suffer from Cauliflower ears are front row forwards and second rows/locks – although back row forwards can also suffer.

In the scrum there’s a huge amount of collisions and pressure applied around the ear area, hitting and rubbing against opponents in the front row.

Second rows/locks squeeze their heads between the hooker and a prop and the impact and friction there can lead to ear deformity.

The man in the main image of this story, Graham Rowntree, was a loosehead prop for England and Leicester Tigers and arguably has rugby’s most famous Cauliflower ears.

Other areas of the game, particularly tackling, also bring further risk to players’ ears.

what is a cauliflower ear

Former England forward Neil Back

Maro Itoje is a lock but doesn’t have a Cauliflower – so they can be avoided?

Yes, don’t play rugby! Jokes aside, yes, they can be, otherwise every tight-five forward would have them.

There’s a few ways to avoid ear deformity or to at least limit it. Some players wear tape around the ears to pull them closer to the skull and limit the impact and friction on them. Sometimes players add Vaseline as well, or instead of, tape to reduce friction.

In modern times, the wearing of head guards has become more common place and one of the benefits is avoiding ear issues.

UFC star Conor McGregor has Cauliflower ears – so it’s not just a rugby thing?

Correct. They’re very common in martial arts such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing, judo, mixed martial arts and even in rugby league too.

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