An auricular hematoma, more commonly known as cauliflower ear, occurs when the cartilage of the outer ear is damaged. Boxers and wrestlers are at particular risk for this injury, but any blow to the ear can result in damage and lead to cauliflower ear. The name comes from the swollen, blistered appearance of the ear, much like the surface of a cauliflower. If you suffer an ear injury, first aid can help reduce the likelihood of developing cauliflower ear, but home remedies cannot cure cauliflower ear. You will need to see a doctor for treatment.
Cauliflower ear occurs when the cartilage of the ear separates from the tissue beneath. While a blow to the ear can damage the cartilage, often the injury occurs over time, due to friction that pulls at the cartilage, lifting it off the tissue surface. An example of this kind of friction would be the friction wrestlers endure in head locks, or when their head is pressed against the mat. Over time the cartilage loses its blood supply from the supporting tissue and dies, crinkling up and taking on a cauliflower appearance. By this time, only medical treatment or even surgery can restore the ear's appearance.
When you experience an injury to your ear's cartilage you'll notice blood and fluid connecting just under the skin's surface, causing the ear to be swollen and tender. Your doctor will treat this by using a syringe to draw out this excess blood and fluid, allowing the cartilage and tissue to adhere together again. Sometimes the doctor will make a small slit with a scalpel to allow more fluid to drain. Do not attempt these treatments at home. Doing so could lead to infection and scarring. After the fluid drains a tight bandage helps encourage the cartilage and tissue to adhere once more.
Wearing protective head gear whenever you wrestle, box or perform martial arts is the best way to prevent cauliflower ear. You should wear this head gear even when you're practicing, advises Dr. Douglas Wyland, a South Carolina orthopedic surgeon and former wrestler who suffers from cauliflower ear himself, the result of failing to wear headgear during wrestling practice when he was younger. Repeated minor injuries and pressure experienced during practice can lead to cauliflower ear.
If you experience an ear injury and your ear begins to swell, see your doctor. Draining the ear is the only effective treatment to prevent cauliflower ear. You can take acetaminophen for the pain, but avoid aspirin, as this can cause you to bleed more freely and increase the swelling. You may need to take antibiotics and may not be able to practice your sport for 7 to 10 days while your ear heals.