Every contact sport comes with the danger of injuries. In this type of martial art, you are just really exposed to damage to your back or knees. However, one of the most common injuries in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling affects a much smaller part of the body. It is the injury of the ear, called Cauliflower Ear. It is one of the most caused injuries that a fighter will come across. Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can enjoy training contact sports while maintaining your ears healthy. One of these ways is wearing ear protectors such as BJJ Ear guards and headgear. If you are considering buying this kind of gear, keep reading, and you will find tips on how to choose and take care of it, etc. Below there is just all you need to know about BJJ Ear Guards and headgear.
Ear protection basics
The main purpose of headgear is to protect the ears, not really the head as the name might suggest. Thus, equipment is also simply called ear guards or ear protectors. All of the headgears covers the ears of the wearer. Most of such protectors have two straps that go behind the head, two that go over the front and top part of the head, and one strap that goes under the chin. In some cases, the strap will go on the chin. This kind of gear is often made of durable plastic, velcro, and button snaps. Sometimes also to not hurt the training partners ear guard are made of neoprene covered in soft fabric.
Currently, ear protectors do not surprise anyone in sports. Many people use them and not only in martial arts. Headgears are also more and more often visible, for example, among football players. However, this was not always the case. Back in the days, there were kinda rare. Although early forms of head protection were available even in the 1920s and 1930s, ear guards were still an uncommon sight in the 1950s and early 1960s.
In wrestling, which can be considered a pioneer of head protectors in combat sports, ear guards were “highly recommended” in the 1963 “NCAA Wrestling Guide.” And later become mandatory for scholastic and collegiate competition in the US since the late 1960s and early 70s. So it can be said that in wrestling we only get used to them for half a century. While in other sports it is even a matter of the 2000s
BJJ ear guards
Headgear made specifically for BJJ is usually very similar to the wrestling ear protectors. The main difference is just wrestling ear guards have been around for longer, and in jiu-jitsu, it is rather something new. This means that sometimes some models of wrestling protectors are a bit dated. While the ones used and created particularly for BJJ are made with newer technologies. Thanks to this you get extended features like protection from abrasions and even shock absorption.
Reasons to wear ear protectors
Training sports such as wrestling or BJJ and other martial arts can develop a condition known as “cauliflower ear”.
Ear Injuries and BJJ Ear Guards
It is a facial injury that particularly deforms the ear that happens when the outer side of the ear is constantly bashed or hit hard, which causes the dense connective tissue to break from the cartilage. These types of injuries do not cause any external bleeding. However, repeated blows to the cartilage in the outer ear can lead to internal bleeding that forms incredibly painful clots and blocks proper blood flow to the ear. This can make some of the cartilage to die and then fold in on itself making the ear look permanently swollen. So as a result ear is lastingly deformed. In addition, extreme cases of this injury can also cause the ear canal to get blocked, which may affect hearing or even cause complete loss of hearing.
Unfortunately, ear injuries are one of the most common in contact sports. However, according to some, deformed ears are a sign of a true warrior, a symbol of dedication to the sport. Cauliflower ears are considered to be even a sort of ‘badge of honor’ among the grapplers. On the other hand for others, the appearance of their ears is simply important and they would like to keep them smooth and nice. Ultimately, however, no matter what is your attitude towards cauliflower ears, once your ear starts closing up and starts affecting your ability to hear, it becomes a serious problem. In such a case, you need to contact the doctor.
However, before that happens this is exactly where the ear guards come into play. Headgear is specially made to protect the wearer from long term injury such as cauliflower ear. It works great as protection for an already sick/damaged ear when we do not want to deepen the problem too. According to some, it also helps prevent other head injuries such as concussion.
So, it is simple. To prevent ear injuries or not wanting to deepen them, BJJ fighters should use ear guards. This is just an essential part of the gear. It does wonders when it comes to saving ears. BJJ headgear is made to simply make ears not prone to ear injuries.
Disadvantages of BJJ headgear
Like everything in life, also ear protectors have two sides, not only the advantages. After the above description, it can be concluded that we all should actually wear headgear. If they only have pluses, we should see all the BJJ competitors wearing them. Yet we do not see them, and even during training no many people do wear such protectors. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, ear guards are just uncomfortable for some people. Some people also believe that when they are worn, we give the opponent a more comfortable grip, because he may somehow grab on headgear. Yet another reason is that ear protectors can be inconvenient for training partners. Especially the headgear with plastic elements can cut into the other person’s body and cause them pain. Some may therefore not wear such protectors because others do not want to exercise with them while they are wearing headgear.
Another and probably the most important reason is that you can’t wear such protective gear during the competition. In general ear guards are not allowed at official tournaments. For example, you can’t wear headgear at IBJJF events because they can obstruct chokes and such. So, that means that during the most stressful and high-paced grappling rolls of your life, your ears are left completely exposed. Therefore, many people choose to keep their ears free all the time instead of protecting them during training and then exposing them to such shock during the competition. They believe that such protection and then putting them at risk can potentially make things worse.
These disadvantages do not mean, however, that we should give up buying an ear protector at all. You don’t have to wear it all the time, but it’s worth having it in case of harder training sessions when we know that our ears will be exposed to a lot of pressure, etc.
Jiu-Jitsu Headgear Basics
If you decide to buy BJJ headgear, picking the first product you see is not the smartest decision. You need to be aware of several characteristics when buying Jiu Jitsu headgear. Pay attention primarily to the things below:
- Comfort of using
First of all – protection. It is the most important thing you need. The protectors should fit snugly and cover your entire ears. Only in this way will your ears be well protected. The second most important thing is how conferrable headgear is. If the protector is uncomfortable at the moment you put it on, it won’t get be better if someone additionally hits it. This lack of comfort will only make you tired, and that was not the goal.
What protection and comfort have in common is that both of these attributes are determined by the material from which the Ear Guards are made. Usually, Jiu Jitsu headgear is made of softer materials such as Neoprene or Nylon. Sometimes, however, they are also from hard plastic.
BJJ Headgear made from softer material is really lightweight and most of the time more comfortable. They are good if you like playing guard a lot. However, they wear out faster than plastic ones. Headgear made from harder materials is also good if you’re more into passing and scrambling out of triangles etc. Last but not least important thing about materials from which your BJJ Ear Guard is made is how it is affecting your training partners. Sometimes fully hard plastic jiu-jitsu ear guards can injure your training partner, and that’s not what you want.
Another thing to look out for when buying BJJ Ear Guard is how it will stay on your head during the roll. Good headgear for jiu-jitsu should have strong supporting straps and a decent hard ear case that is large enough for your ears not to rub on. There are different styles of ear guards; hard shell, soft shell, fabric-covered, exposed plastic, and 2 straps, 3 straps, or 5 straps. Soft shell ear guards are usually recommended for BJJ.
The Best BJJ Ear Guards and Headgear
Thanks to the information above you know how important is to protect your ears. That’s why for this article, we reviewed several BJJ headgear and ear guards. Products we tested are the following:
- Cliff Keen F5 Tornado Headgear
- Grapplearts Ear Guards
- Matman Ultra Soft Wrestling Headgear
- Venum Ear Pads Kontact EVO
- ASICS Unisex Gel Ear Guard
- Cliff Keen E58 Headgear
- Adidas Ear Guard
- Gold BJJ Headgear
This headgear got many pros. First of all, it is very light and comfortable. It combines the comfort of the foam ones with the protection of the hardshells. This is because it has ultra-deep ear cups to provide ultimate comfort and protection from the bashing to the ear. Moreover, it is built with an air ventilation system, to allow air to pass through, which also makes the audibility of the headgear better than the ones which are utterly covered. In this protector, hearing is just excellent. In this headgear, you can hear as you would normally hear when your ears are exposed.
What is another big advantage is the fact that it is safe for training partners. It gives just enough when you push on it. This headgear at the same time keeps your ears safe and doesn’t hurt others. What distinguishes this protector from others is the fact that usually headgears are strapped at the back of the head and this one has a Power tab on-the-fly strapping system. It’s not the cheapest ear guard, but it’s definitely worth the money.
This BJJ headgear is made of soft fabric with two straps with adjustable size. Thanks to such a structure this ear guard is phenomenal for both you as the person wearing it as well as the person who you are training with. It causes no discomfort to anyone, even during heavy rolls. Moreover, it is very comfortable and actually stays on while grappling.
The only drawback is that it is not the most good looking protector. You probably won’t like the way you look in them. However, it is something for something. It is ugly, but it protects the ears well and is comfortable to use. So, if you do BJJ and don’t want cauliflower these are what you need to get.
This headgear comes with protective cups preventing the impact of hard-hitting to the ears. What is great is the fact these hard plastic ear cups are covered on the inside and the outside in a soft fabric. Thanks to this it is comfortable in use for both you and your training partners.
Moreover, it is lightweight and not overbearing. The material is light enough that it isn’t bulky and the ear covering fits well and you can still hear through the headgear. It is because both sides have three air ventilation holes, which makes it easier to hear, and also keeps ears cool while training or fighting. So generally, this is another ugly but well-working protector. It is just well made and well priced.
Venum Ear Pads have been providing some very good ear guards, and this model one of their finest collections. It is meant to increased support and comfort during training. They will give a hard time to the opponent while hitting and also will prevent cauliflower ear with ease. The ear guard is comfortable and easy to wear.
A big plus is a fact of how this protector stays on the head. Many people think that only the hard-shell multi-strap models would really stay in place. But thanks to the wideband around the forehead, with gripping gel strips inside, this headgear stays in place like the more traditional, hard, multi strap models. While at the same time maintaining all the advantages of the soft-shell. What is also great is that the chin strap is wider and more flexible compared to other models making this ear guard really comfortable. The only cons are that there is some difficulty in hearing compared to other ear guards, and they might get really warm after a while.
ASICS produces ear guards that fit on any sort of ear, no matter big or small. Forehead and chin straps hook securely with a chin cup for more comfort. They are the best looking guards for big ears. After a few good rolls, you can see how surprisingly well it works. They don’t slip and slide all that much and they don’t hurt training partners.
Moreover, it is lightweight, while at the same time protect well. It pros in brief: easy to put on, fits well – good coverage around the ears, works. The cons are that it might feel harsh on the ears. The top section of the guard can roll forward over the eyes. The slippery fabric can cause the guard to move around over the ear area.
Cliff Keen seems to be one of the best brands when it comes to BJJ Ear Guard. This is proven by the presence of not one, but two of their products on this list. This headgear is really lightweight, has low profile straps and double width on the ear guards. It offers great protection and at the same time a comfortable fit thanks to the fact that it is fully adjustable.
Many say it is even the best headgear ever. Does the job, stays on, and is easy to clean. Also once you have the perfect adjustment, it will stay that way extremely well. Moreover, it isn’t hurting your sparring partners. The shells are mostly flat and are padded with a soft, smooth exterior. What is also great is that it is affordable and lasts a very long time.
Despite the fact, Adidas is not really a brand often associated with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, however, it still can offer something good to BJJ practitioners. It is Adidas’ Response Ear Guard. This headgear provides great protection and comfort thanks to specially molded ear cups, with soft padding and foam covering with adjustable straps. Adidas Ear Guard is also very durable and you can buy it in different colors.
Moreover, it is a bit softer than other similar ear guards. Thanks to this it doesn’t hurt anyone during rolling. Also, compared to similar models, in this headgear, you can hear quite well. It is simply a good quality protector at a reasonable price. You do not overpay for the brand.
It is a really comfortable ear guard that stayed put in every roll. Chinstrap is padded nicely and still let’s tuck the chin tight. At the same time, Gold BJJ Headgear is super light and durable. You can really put a lot of pressure on your ears while wearing it and not feel it.
Moreover, your training partner will appreciate the soft fabric of it. Thanks to adjustable Velcro straps one size of this ear guard fits all. It is also designed with holes so you can actually hear your coach. You probably won’t win any beauty contest in this protector, but it protects your ears really well. The price / quality ratio is also really good. You just get what you pay for.
Taking care of your BJJ headgear/ear guard
Keeping your gear clean, especially gear that touches the face is very important. Therefore, we should not forget to clean our ear protectors after each training session. Thanks to this, many nasty skin diseases and regular acne can be avoided. Although headgear may seem unwieldy to clean, it’s easier than it sounds. It is enough to follow a few simple rules of conduct.
First, protect the ear guard from moisture and wet. Always store it dry. Provide good ventilation after training so that the moisture from sweating can evaporate. Clean by hand with lukewarm or mild detergent. Remove cleaning residues with a damp cloth and wipe dry with a soft cloth. Dry the headgear at ambient temperature in a well-ventilated space. Avoid heat sources and extreme temperatures. Also never use for cleaning things like chemicals, alcohol, or strong detergents as they might damage the surface.
Many people say that such equipment does not need to be washed at all or that it is enough to put it in the washing machine. However, this is not the best approach. Treating your protectors in this way may damage them or cause you skin problems. Both are rather undesirable, so it’s better to stick to the steps mentioned above.
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