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Wrestlers Cauliflower Ear; Care & Prevention
Anthony Donatelli, M.D.

The technical name for this condition is perichondral hematoma.

It is caused by sudden blunt trauma to the ear when a hand, foot, head or even the wrestling mat comes in contact with the ear. There is separation of the tissue planes of the ear. This space fills with blood from ruptured capillaries.

The pressure created by this hematoma is painful and the swelling is unsightly. Uncorrected, ( though considered a badge of honor by many in our sport!), the hematoma turns to scar tissue and calcifies. The calcium is an irritant and calcium has been associated with cancer in later life.

The procedure performed in this office, taught to me by the legendary Dr. Bob Fallot, is as follows:

1. Needle aspiration of the fluid.
2. Infusion of a steroid into the evacuated space ( to further reduce capillary bleeding) for 1 minute.
4. Aspiration ( removal ) of steroid.
5. Clamping ( to promote hemostasis - to help stop further bleeding ).
6. “Casting” of the ear tightly held in place with tape ( to prevent re-accumulation of blood into the space.

The ear is rechecked every 4 days ( until healed ) and the procedure repeated as necessary.

Recognize that due to the repetitive traumas in our sport, the potential for re-accumulation of blood is great. The best time to fix an ear is as soon as possible; but there is a several day window to do the procedure.

The longer time elapses, the greater the potential for scarring and calcification. ( I have a small cauliflower ear from my free-styling days in college that has calcified due to non-treatment.

This injury is practically completely preventable by wearing headgear. Traditionally, head gears are worn in matches and in most live wrestling. The majority of ears I’ve fixed have been due to non-live wrestling drills in practice and free styling. Headgear should be worn whenever working with a partner. Prevention of Cauliflower Ear is the easiest, least painful and best route by far.

There very few doctors on Long Island who perform this particular procedure developed by Doc Fallot. The procedure takes a fair amount of time. Those of us that fix Cauliflower Ears, generally, do it as a labor-of-love and “give-back” to the sport we love.

Dr. Anthony Donatelli practices Family Medicine and is a Diplomate of The American Board of Family Practice. He is a former scholastic & collegiate wrestler. His office is located at 4568A Sunrise Highway (Rt 27), Oakdale, NY 11769. He can be reached at 631-730-8542.