In spite of its name, the headgear in BJJ is not intended for protecting the head but rather the ears. That is why ear guards or ear protection are equally popular names for it. But why do you need a piece of equipment that protects your ears in BJJ in the first place? The answer is cauliflower ears. In this article we are going to show you how you can select the best headgear for BJJ so you can avoid cauliflower ears.
How does Headgear Prevent Cauliflower Ear?
To avoid the inconvenience of treating a cauliflower ear or the long-term risks associated with this injury, it is best to prevent the trauma in the first place.
This is where headgear comes into play.
BJJ headgear can protect your ears in two ways. Firstly, it prevents the occurrence of the cauliflower ear in the first place. Secondly, it protects the already damaged cartilage during the healing process and afterward from new injuries that could potentially cause long-term health problems such as impaired hearing or blurred vision.
Moreover, headgear is strongly recommended for child athletes.
Oh and just to clarify, you can comfortably wear headgear in both Gi and No Gi rolling
Overall Pros and Cons of Headgear in BJJ
- It prevents the occurrence of cauliflower ear
- If the ear has already been damaged, it protects it during the healing process
- It prevents the long-term risks associated with repeated blows to the ears: hearing problems, headaches, or blurred vision
- It can hurt the sides of your head, feel uncomfortable or rub your ears and further damage existing ear injury
- It can be uncomfortable, or it can even injure your sparring partner
- Some models might limit your hearing, so you need to take them off to hear your coach’s instructions, for example
- Some models might not be adjustable for smaller sizes, so they can’t be used by women or children
- They are not allowed in most of the official competitions, so it might make it difficult to participate without headgear once you got used to it during the training sessions
- Some wear the cauliflower ears as badges of honor and consider the headgear as a sign of weakness
Best Headgear for BJJ Reviews
Best Overall: Cliff Keen F5 Tornado Headgear
Cliff Keen’s F5 Tornado Headgear comes at a reasonable price for the quality it offers. It has tens of color combinations to choose from, but probably its biggest strength is the patented ‘Air Vent system’ technology which makes it incredibly breathable. Moreover, F5 Tornado is one of the few headgears out there that do not obstruct your hearing, so there is no need to take it off when listening to instructions.
This headgear is very comfortable, being 43% lighter than traditional wrestling headgear. Moreover, it fits very well and stays in place once fitted. One size fits all so that women and youth can wear it. For children, the Cliff Keen Youth F5 Tornado version is available.
The Bad/ What I don’t like
Similar to other headgears, it might offer your opponent a slight advantage. Also, if you have longer hair, the backstraps might get a bit uncomfortable. The cloth straps absorb the sweat and are more difficult to clean. Moreover, some sparring partners might find it uncomfortable.
- Comfortable and light
- You can normally hear while wearing it
- Your hair might get tangles in the straps
- Needs careful cleaning
- Some gyms might not allow the use of hard shell headgear
Best Budget: Matman Ultra Soft
They are made of Ultrasoft Neoprene, which is a breathable material and has antimicrobial protection. The holes ensure further ventilation and good hearing. The Matman Ultrasoft headgear is comfortable and well-fitting. It also offers a youth version. Finally, this ear guard has quite a few colors to choose from.
It is very easy and comfortable, both for you and your training partner since it is covered in soft fabric both inside and outside.
The Bad/ What I don’t like
They might come off the head during the training or rob the ears, which is precisely the opposite of what you are looking for when using ear guards.
- Uncomfortable chin straps
- Weak velcro
Best Runner Up: Gold BJJ Headgear
The Gold BJJ Headgear is a one-size-fits-all due to its adjustable velcro straps. It is designed explicitly with holes to allow a proper hearing. It has a great reputation among Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ fans.
Moreover, this headgear comes with a free mouthguard and offers a guarantee.
This protective gear has been praised for being very comfortable and staying put during the training. It also resists the test of time, being incredibly durable.
The Bad/ What I don’t like
Gold BJJ is probably not the most aesthetically pleasing headgear on the list. It might also overheat. The under-chin strap, often referred to as a neck strap, could make breathing a little uncomfortable.
- Middle range price
- Comfortable for the partner
- Available only in black color
- It might not be fit for really small or huge heads and ears
Best Women’s: Asics Gel Ear Guards
Asics Gel Ear Guards are one of the cheapest options for headgear available on the market. They are adjustable, fit well smaller heads and ears, and are lightweight. Moreover, they come in three different colors.
Asics Gel Technology™ reduces impact while increasing the shock absorption. The gel is strategically placed to offer maximum comfort.
This product seems to be the go-to for beginners and young athletes who are not ready yet to make substantial investments in their gear. Being unisex, it is also an excellent fit for women and smaller heads and ears in general. It is also considered comfortable and lightweight.
The Bad/ What I don’t like
They are definitely not designed for top performance. The product is not very durable so it won’t last for long. The straps might feel too thin and uncomfortable for some.
- Cheap, so easily replaceable if lost
- It needs to be adjusted very tight
- Rather hard for what you might expect from a ‘gel’
- Straps get twisted
Venum Kontact Evo Ear Guards
Venum’s headgear is a top candidate regarding the protection against impacts and rubbing that it offers. However, its shortcomings consist of significantly reducing the hearing and lack of ventilation, which makes these ear guards prone to overheating.
You can tell that there has been a lot of attention given to the design and looks of the Venum Ear Guards. Still, considering the critical minuses, it might not be convincing enough to invest in this rather pricey product unless, of course, looks come first for you.
Overall, this headgear seems to get in the way significantly less than others on the list and is very easy to clean. However, you might find it difficult to adjust, particularly for a small head.
Grapplearts Minimum Profile Ear Guard
Gappelarts Ear Guard is another product that doesn’t really fit into the budget category. It is made of Microbially Resistant Nylon and tough plastic. The chin pad is removable, and the headgear is adjustable to any head size. A big plus is represented by the ear holes, which allow ventilation and hearing.
The downside is that the plastic loops might start turning and twisting after a while. Overall, the Grappelarts Ear Guard doesn’t seem to be as sturdy as other products in this list since the strips and clips tend to break quite easily.
Cliff Keen E58 Headgear
E58 is another Cliff Keen product that made it to this list, and similar to the F5 Tornado, this one, too, comes in a youth version, as Cliff Keen YE58.
Cliff Keen E58 is another piece of headgear that doesn’t break the bank, so it’s a good investment for beginners or those who are not very committed yet to the headgear idea.
This ear guard is relatively easy to clean and adjust and stays well in place. However, it might take some time until finding the perfect balance between too tight of a fit and a too loose one.
Now that you decided that you need headgear to protect your ears, here are the things you want to pay attention to when choosing which piece of equipment is the best choice for you:
As mentioned a few times in the list above, the ear guards are not always the one-size-fits-all type. Some are specifically designed for smaller heads and ears, so make sure you pick up the right size for you.
Hard-shelled vs. Soft pads
The hard-shelled plastic headgear might receive red lights from our gym or your training partners, so make sure everyone is ok with you using it before investing in an expensive one. Or stick to the ones with a softshell design.
Color and looks
Since it covers your head and maybe some of your faces, you might also consider the aesthetical aspect besides safety.
Cleaning and maintenance
Some of the headgear options might be machine-washing friendly, but most are not, so make sure you find one that fits with the time and effort you are willing to put in maintaining it clean.
BJJ Headgear FAQs
What is a cauliflower ear?
Cauliflower ear is medically known as a perichondrial hematoma but often nicknamed wrestler’s ear. As you might guess, it is a type of ear inquiry specific to contact sports and is considered one of the most common injuries in BJJ and wrestling.
Perichondrial hematoma occurs when the cartilage or outer ear suffers repeated blows, or trauma, resulting in internal bleeding, which leads to swelling. The name cauliflower ear has probably been inspired by the aspect of this swelling of the ear.
Besides BJJ, sports such as boxing, MMA and water polo are all increasing your chances of ending up with a cauliflower ear.
Is cauliflower ear dangerous?
Even though cauliflower ear doesn’t pose any immediate risk, it might create discomfort when sleeping besides its obvious esthetical inconvenience. However, the long-term implications of repeated injuries of the ear include hearing loss, ringing in the ear, headaches, or blurred vision. A wrestler’s ear might also increase the risk of ear infections.
Can a cauliflower ear be healed?
Cauliflower ear needs immediate treatment, otherwise, it can become permanent. The initial treatment consists of the application of ice on the injured area to prevent the swelling in the first place. You should also seek a doctor’s help, who could drain the excessive blood by making a small incision.
In some cases, otoplasty, a correcting surgery might be possible to correct a permanent cauliflower ear.
How do you prevent cauliflower ear in BJJ?
The only way is to wear headgear or ear guards, which offer proper protection against cauliflower ear.
Should I wear headgear for BJJ?
Some people seem not to be bothered by their deformed ears or wear them as a badge of honor. Others seem to be lucky enough not to get swollen ears in the first place. If you are not part of either of these categories, you should wear headgear for BJJ.
Will BJJ headgear limit my hearing?
Some models seem to significantly limit hearing, whereas others might hardly make a difference. Check out our list for the top ear guards that do not limit your hearing.
Does wearing BJJ headgear prevent cauliflower ear?
Yes, if they are well fitted and the correct size.
Conclusion and Final Verdict
As I already mentioned, headgears are not a must for everyone, and still, for those who prefer not to damage their ears or are prone to ear injuries, they are essential. Nevertheless, paying attention to the quality and size of the ear guards is paramount once you decide that this product is for you since an improper fit might end up causing more damage than ear trauma in the first place.