Cauliflower ear is not a pretty thing.
From Wikipedia: “Cauliflower ear (complication of hematoma auris, perichondrial hematoma, or traumatic auricular hematoma) is a condition that occurs when the external portion of the ear suffers a blow, blood clot or other collection of fluid under the perichondrium. This separates the cartilage from the overlying perichondrium that supplies its nutrients, causing it to die and resulting in the formation of fibrous tissue in the overlying skin. As a result, the outer ear becomes permanently swollen and deformed, resembling a cauliflower.”
Basically the ear swells with blood in the affected region, which among other things, makes it feel quite tender. It can be drained with by the doctor, but in my experience, this means spending an hour in the waiting room surrounded by over-protective mothers with slightly sick children.
Once again, Doctor Prototype is here to rescue you; head to your local pharmacy and ask them for a couple of syringes and some 5/8ths gauge needles. I had my coach assist me, since I seem to be incapable of getting a needle through all my layers of skin. But make sure you abide by the same procedure: swab the area with disinfectant, use a new sterile needle and syringe, drain, then immediately bandage.
I’ve had a over 9CC’s of blood drained before I resorted to simply wrapping the ear in cotton, gauze and a tensor bandage to keep it from swelling with more blood. Having cauli ear makes it difficult to train, especially if you want to keep the ear from swelling even further. I’ve worn wrestling headgear while waiting for my cauli to harden, but even hard-shell headgear can shift and push against the ear.
With MMA and BJJ being so mainstream these days, the cauli ear isn’t looked on so badly anymore … as long as everyone you know and come across is in the industry as well. Normal people don’t view the cauli ears the same way, and having cauli ear can make a regular social life a bit more difficult.
In the end, you either train with the proper protective gear to avoid being afflicted by cauliflower ear, or you get it drained, or you just leave it and deal with it. The choice is ultimately up to you.
There is a tiny silver lining to cauli ear, and hardly worth it, but having cauli ear tends to make the hooligans and ruffians avoid you. Micah Brakefield and I had a quick conversation about it, and we both agreed that it does keep “thugs” from starting anything with you … so keep calm and cauli on!