The Gray Lady has a piece up today about cauliflower ear and its relationship to our growing sport. The author gets the details correct but tries to spin the reasons why fighters or wrestlers don't treat it. To wit:
As a signature injury, cauliflower ear stands alone in one illuminating respect. Although most athletes tend to err on the side of overtreatment, or at least treatment, fighters develop cauliflower ear by avoiding medical care.
Long familiar to amateur wrestlers, the condition begins when creasing, pulling and rubbing creates a blood clot between the cartilage and the connective tissue of the upper ear, said Dr. Gregory Ator, an otology specialist at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Infection and swelling can follow.
Properly drained, sutured and insulated, the ear can recover. The condition poses no serious threat to hearing, Ator said. But without medical care, scar tissue can reshape the skin and cartilage to give the outer ear a mangled, stunted, pale appearance.
In a study of 635 mixed martial arts matches in Nevada, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that the most common injuries were lacerations and wounds to the upper extremities. The study did not count conditions that develop over time, like cauliflower ear. In an article in The British Journal of Sports Medicine last year, the researchers concluded that overall injury rates for mixed martial arts roughly matched those of other combat sports.
With minimal subtlety, cauliflower ear announced itself to a national audience during a Saturday night broadcast on CBS on May 31, when a British fighter's ear exploded in a shower of blood and pus. The match was stopped as a technical knockout, causing no small controversy among fans, rival promoters and some mixed martial arts officials.
All too true except that while it's true fighters or wrestlers use their cauliflower ear as a badge of honor, the more important part is that healing the ear requires time away from training. Fighters and wrestlers know as soon as the ear heals, it's likely going to blow back up again, so they have no incentive to try to keep their ears pretty. Additionally, many fighters have no health insurance, so while the occasional draining of an ear with a syringe is ok, seeking the help of a medical professional is out of the question.
As for me, I've only had minor clotting a couple of times and have been very fortunate to avoid any gruesome damage. The other truth about cauliflower ear is that, for whatever reason, it doesn't affect everyone. Or, at least, it doesn't affect everyone equally. Some guys get it right away; others not so much. I've been fortunate, but to be honest, I wouldn't really care if I did get it. Then I'd be the only MMA blogger who even resembles a fighter.