This week I am will continue talking about protective gear for grappling, moving on from mouthguards to earguards.
The vast majority of submission grapplers and Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners do NOT wear earguards, and neither did I for a long time. I thought I was immune to ear trauma, until after a tournament I found my ears tender and swollen (my attempts at home ear-draining might some day form the basis for another tip of the week). When ears are subjected to impact, grinding and crushing (i.e. your average day on the mats) they sometimes take offense and become swollen. If the swelling is particularly bad, or if it sticks around for a long time, so-called ‘cauliflower’ ears can develop.
Cauliflower ears are badges of pride to some people in judo, wrestling, and rugby, and if that’s your thing then more power to you. Personally I’d rather avoid mangled ears: I am ugly enough as it is, and have rather large ears, so I can only imagine what I’d look like with lumps of mangled flesh on either side of my noggin.
So nowadays I usually (80% of the time) wear ear guards while sparring. They make it a little more difficult to slip out of headlocks, but I think the tradeoff is worthwhile. Even if you don’t want to wear them all the time you might still want to own a set for when your ears are sore from a previous workout. If they are sore but not swollen then the ear guards might just be the thing you need to stop them from going to the next stage.
I wear lightweight, flexible ear guards, the type without the rigid plastic cups over the ears. I find that these lightweight ear guards provide sufficient protection for me, but someone with ultra-sensitive ears might want to get the full-on competitive wrestling headgear with hard shell protection and more straps than a B&D outfit.