Cauliflower is a nutrient-rich vegetable, high in vitamins C, K and B6, and a great source of antioxidants.
Cauliflower ear is a nasty injury that is extremely common in BJJ and other grappling-based sports, and an injury that most people want to avoid.
In a close-contact sport like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, our ears are right in the firing line as one of the body parts that are most in danger. That’s why Jiu Jitsu ears are a thing. And if you train for a long time, it’s likely you’ll experience this too. That is, unless you invest in a good set of ear guards for BJJ.
Luckily, BJJ headgear doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, or get in the way when you’re rolling or drilling. In this post, we’ll review some of the best BJJ ear guard choices out there right now, as well as give a deeper insight into ear protection for BJJ.
Best Ear Guards & Jiu Jitsu Headgear for 2023
If you really want to avoid cauliflower ear, you need headgear for BJJ that ticks the boxes for both protection and comfort. Your headgear needs to offer adequate protection, but not in a way that interferes with your training.
Today, there are a number of brands making high-quality ear guards, specially designed for BJJ, so you have a good selection to choose from. Here’s the best of the bunch, as picked out and tested by our team.
- PROTECTION AGAINST CAULIFLOWER EAR 🛡️ Gold BJJ headgear is the protection you need to keep your ears...
- ONE SIZE FITS ALL 👪 Our ear guard uses adjustable velcro straps that will protect your ears whether...
- EAR HOLES FOR HEARING 👂 We designed our ear guard with holes so you can actually hear your instructor...
- TRUSTED BY THOUSANDS OF JIU JITSU ATHLETES 🥋 Our ear guard has been used by thousands of Jiu Jitsu...
- BACKED BY THE GOLD BJJ GUARANTEE 💯 Did the 320-pound all state wrestler who just rolled up in his...
Our top choice is the BJJ headgear from Gold BJJ. The team at Gold BJJ are Jiu Jitsu athletes themselves, who know what we need from gear and protective equipment. Their BJJ ear guards are no exception, nailing what’s needed in protective headgear specifically for BJJ.
The sizing is “one size fits all”, thanks to an adjustable strap under the chin, velcro straps securing the cranium, and a flexible elastic headband. Realistically it’s not a literal one size fits all – but for the majority of users, sizing should not be an issue.
The design and materials used in this headgear are the best selling point. It’s high-quality and durable, but at the same time non-abrasive, so it shouldn’t cause any discomfort. The material is lightweight, too, which is a must for Jiu Jitsu.
By going with an elastic headband across the top of the head, as well as the front and back velcro straps, it’s more likely to stay securely in place while rolling – compared to wrestling ear guards, which generally just have two straps on the head (plus one under the chin).
This headgear includes a bonus mouthguard too, which is a nice touch.
Price-wise, this is right around average pricing for decent BJJ headgear. Good value for a quality product, made and supported by a great brand.
- EASY TO ADJUST: Adjustable at 3 points. The top of the head, the back of the head and the chin strap.
- ONE SIZE: The Dynasty Adult headgear fits wrestlers over 100 lbs or a hat size 7 and larger. (See sizing...
- LIGHTWEIGHT NEOPRENE: The material is breathable and strong with a soft exterior and a durable hard shell...
- HANDWASH: Material is easy to hand wash and hang dry for repeated use.
- AMERICAN COMPANY: Matman has been a retailer of quality athletic goods and apparel for over 50 years.
The Matman wrestling headgear is designed for – you guessed it – wrestling. But it’s still more than suitable for BJJ use, and comes at great value with a great track record.
These ear guards are fully covered in fabric, meaning no abrasive materials, friendly for both yourself and your training partners. The top and back straps are velcro-secured. Together with an adjustable chin strap, it should stay in place well during drills and rolling.
The three-strap design makes it a little increased risk of coming out of place in rolls, compared to specialized BJJ ear guards. But the payoff is less fabric, lighter weight, and a lower profile headgear.
The price is extremely decent, making this one of the best value picks you have available. It also comes in a few different colors – black, navy, royal blue and red (but no purple – sorry, purple belts).
- Molded Shells For Enhanced Protection Against Impacts And Rubbing
- Foam Covering To Absorb And Disperse Shock Effectively
- Inner Band And 3-Way System Closure For A Customized And Secure Fit
- Country Of Origin: China
If you want the top ear protection money can buy, the Venum Kontact Evo Ear Guards are here for you.
While most headgear is designed mainly to protect against abrasion on the ears, the Venum Kontact Evo goes a step further, with molded neoprene shells (similar to rugby headgear). This gives you protection against both abrasion and impact, where many other ear guards won’t adequately absorb shock and power.
Fun fact – my cauliflower ear first came from taking a stray elbow in MMA sparring. Many sets of lightweight headgear wouldn’t have stopped this injury.
While being strong and powerful against impact, the neoprene is pliable, and fabric-covered, which means your head is not going to become an armor-clad weapon.
Instead of being secured by several individual velcro straps, this headgear features just one, 3-way velcro closure at the back. This gives it a more sturdy fit, and fewer areas that can come apart during rolls.
The one negative is probably the fit – the payoff for better protective features is it’s not as much of a “one size fits all” as many other ear guards. It’s still adjustable, but you do need to get the right size, to ensure your ears fit in the protective shells, and the fit is snug but comfortable. It’s a little bit of a premium in price, too. But taking that into account, it’s still really good value for really comprehensive ear protection.
- Easily adjustalbe
- Super Light
- Protective closed cell foam
- Three-strap design provides for a soft and comfortable fit
Cliff Keen is a big name when it comes to wrestling ear guards. They’re made for wrestlers, to whom cauliflower ear is a very real and common occupational hazard, so they know what it takes to prevent it. And despite being made for wrestling, these ear guards fit the bill for BJJ too.
The design gives you minimal material to deal with, outside of the protective ear cups, making this headgear light, breathable, and comfortable to maintain for a whole session of drills/rolls. The protective cups feature a decent amount of ear holes to allow you to hear easily while wearing them.
Some of the features may get in the way sometimes when you’re rolling. So while the Cliff Keen Fusion gets top marks in protection, there’s a small chance that they could obstruct you during transitions and fights on the ground. I’d suggest them for sessions when you’re focused on wrestling/takedowns – however, they can work for ground work too. Just be aware that they may be slightly more obtrusive than something like the Gold BJJ headgear or the Venum Kontact Evo.
- Protects Against Cauliflower Ear During Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Submission Grappling and MMA Training
- Made from Microbialy Resistant Nylon and Tough Thermomolded Plastic
- Easy Velcro Adjustment To Fit Every Grappler, From Small to Large Heads
- Comes With A Removable Chin Pad to Allow Customisation for Maximum Comfort
- Soft and Cool Fleecy Lining for Comfort, and Ear Holes for Ventilation and Enhanced Hearing
Designed by BJJ black belt Stephan Kesting and his team, you can be confident this headgear is made with Jiu Jitsu athletes in mind. Thus, the design is focused on staying in place during close rolls and ground play, without causing problems for routine submissions and techniques.
The ear cups are made from thermomolded plastic, with an antimicrobial nylon outer, which is comfortable on you and on your training partner. There are ear holes too, so you (and Stephan’s students) can hear the professor without issue.
Another feature of this BJJ headgear is a soft, removable chin pad on the chin strap. This allows enhanced comfort, particularly when a tight fit is applied. However, being removable, it’s a totally optional feature for those who feel it may be uncomfortable or that it will get in the way.
- PEACE OF MIND: Prevent UGLY cauliflower ear with the easiest to adjust, most comfortable, and most stable...
- PROTECTION: Train and fight with more intensity knowing your ears are protected. Our hard EVA ear guards...
- EASY TO ADJUST: Our New Design allows you to fine tune your fit without removing your headgear for...
- CLEAN, COMFORTABLE & DURABLE: Our ultra soft, breathable, machine washable cover feels like a dream and...
- THE ADAPT ATHLETICS GUARANTEE: If you love Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu BJJ, Mixed Martial Arts MMA,...
The hallmarks of this headgear are great value, good all-round comfort and security, and super spacious ear cups.
A lot of ear guards are super tight around the ears, actually causing abrasion to the ears (especially if you have big ears, like me). That’s not a problem with the Adapt Athletics headgear, as big and spacious cups give you ears room to breath, with added extra large vent holes for air flow and hearing.
The cups are made from strong EVA material, meaning they offer equal protection and comfort.
The size is a “one size fits most”, with adjustable straps on the front, back and chin. While this offers a great fit for most users, it can be a bit bulky and awkward at times, particularly if you have a smaller head (and thus need to adjust the straps very tight). Regardless, it still offers a great way to protect yourself from that Judo black belt at your gym, and his signature “big brother” scarf hold.
Is Ear Protection For BJJ Necessary?
Can you wear headgear in BJJ? You certainly can. Not in competition, as most rulesets won’t allow headgear. But in training, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with taking steps to prevent injury.
However, do you need to protect your ears? This is up to personal preference. A lot of people (the majority, actually) choose to go without ear guards. Ear protection is not as common in BJJ as it is in wrestling, for example.
Some people don’t like wearing headgear for BJJ, some people don’t want to shell out for a good set of ear guards. Others see the cauliflower ear as a sort of trophy – externally visible evidence of your toughness.
Regardless of your reason, if you choose not to wear headgear for BJJ, be prepared to experience an ear injury at some point during your Jiu Jitsu journey.
Not every position in Jiu Jitsu puts your ears in danger. It’s primarily headlock positions, such as guillotines, and front chokes like the anaconda and d’arce. So, while your ears won’t be taking the consistent punishment that they would in a sport like wrestling, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to avoid putting your ears at risk 100% of the time.
Common Ear Injuries in BJJ & Grappling
By far the most common and well-known ear injury you can get in BJJ is cauliflower ear. This is what people mean when they say “Jiu Jitsu ears”.
Cauliflower ear occurs when you take impact or blunt trauma to the ear. This causes the skin to separate from the ear cartilage, and the ear fills up with blood.
The result is a gnarly, swollen ear, resembling a head of cauliflower (hence the name). Cauliflower ear can be treated in the early stages, by applying ice to the ear and/or draining the fluid from inside.
If left, however, the fluid will usually harden, and the ear shrivels up on itself, resulting in the classic “Jiu Jitsu ears” look.
Cauliflower ear is super painful in the early stages. I had a minor case of cauliflower ear, and for about a month it was death each time it was touched in training. After it settles, however, there is usually no pain. Discomfort may or may not persist, depending on the severity of your cauliflower ear, but often you won’t notice it at all.
What to Look For In BJJ Headgear
Here are the most important things to consider when shopping for BJJ ear guards:
BJJ headgear is a protective equipment, so the level of protection it provides is the most important thing to look for. You want to be confident that your ears will be adequately protected, ideally against multiple types of injury – not just friction, but impact.
There’s more than one way your ears can be injured in BJJ. The most common way is friction. For example, being in a tight guillotine, or an opponent applying pressure to the side of your head from top control. This is the way most people will develop redness, and potentially cauliflower ear.
On the other hand, your ear can get caught and torn, and injured this way. Or you can take impact to the ear, such as stray knees, elbows or accidental headbutts.
The best ear protection for BJJ will protect against all these kinds of injury. On a budget, you may be able to settle for wrestling-style ear guards that protect against tears and friction. But for the ultimate protection, go with something like the Venum headgear that provides all-round protection.
Needless to say durability is something you should take seriously when buying headgear for BJJ. Your purchase is going to take a lot of punishment, so be sure it can stand up to punishment.
Make sure it’s made of sturdy material, that won’t tear or break apart easily. Particularly the straps, as these are common points of failure in a set of headgear or ear guards.
The reason a lot of people choose not to wear headgear is a lack of comfort. It’s easy for a poor fitting or poor quality headgear to be bothersome, and throw you off your game. If you’re going to wear headgear, make sure you’re comfortable wearing it throughout a whole session.
It’s also ideal if the headgear has decent-sized ear holes. This will allow ventilation (which provides more comfort), as well as allowing you to hear while wearing it. This is super important if you’re wearing it for drills. Even in rolling, it’s an advantage to be able to hear properly, whether it’s for instructions from coach, verbal taps, or any other verbal warnings.
When we talk comfort, we’ll talk about fit as well. Be aware that poor fitting headgear can actually cause injuries to the ear. If your headgear is too tight around the ears, it will cause friction, which can lead to cauliflower ear (or make existing injuries worse).
A lot of companies make a “one size fits all” or “one size fits most” headgear, that can be adjusted to fit different head sizes. Otherwise, be sure to choose the size that’s right for you.
Finally, consider the material on the outside of your headgear.
Some ear guards (those not made specifically for BJJ) have hard and abrasive plastic on the outside. This is not good for BJJ, assuming you’ll be wearing them to fight on the ground. The plastic is going to be a pain for your training partner to deal with, and eventually no one will want to roll with you.
BJJ headgear should have soft fabric on the outside, which won’t cause abrasions to your partner.
What Other Sports Use Headgear & Ear Guards?
BJJ is relatively new in the combat sports landscape, and adequately protecting yourself in BJJ is an idea that is even newer. So a lot of more established headgear brands are from wrestling and other sports.
Wrestlers often use ear guards, and in your shopping journey you’re almost certain to find some options that are made primarily for wrestling. These can be suitable for BJJ too – as long as you take into consideration the factors we talked about earlier.
You’ll also find headgear used in boxing, kickboxing and MMA, to lessen the damage to the head from strikes (kicks and punches).
Finally, rugby players also frequently use headgear. Rugby features a lot of the same dangers as you’ll get in rolling, so this type of headgear is designed quite closely to headgear made for BJJ.
BJJ Headgear vs Wrestling Headgear (and other styles)
A lot of the time, wrestling headgear can work for BJJ too. You just need to consider whether these ear guards are suitable for rolling.
A lot of wrestling ear guards only have the cups on the outside, with minimal material across the head. While this is most lightweight and comfortable, they’re likely to be dislodged when you fight on the ground, or when caught in front chokes (like a guillotine or d’arce).
Rugby headgear can work quite well for BJJ. As I come from New Zealand (the home of rugby), I’ve trained with several partners who used rugby headgear when rolling and drilling. Rugby headgear is a little more bulky than you’d like for BJJ, but it still does the job of protecting you from friction and impact injuries.
Wrestling and rugby ear guards are really the only types that can work for BJJ as well. You don’t want to wear headgear designed for striking, such as boxing, kickboxing or karate, as this style is much too bulky. You may wear boxing headgear during MMA sparring, but it’s not ideal if you want to train grappling as well. Often for MMA you need to make a decision between protecting your ears and protecting your head.
Find Your Gi’s BJJ Ear Guard Guide – In Summary
Cauliflower ear has become a kind of badge of honor for fighters.
But memes aside, when it happens to you, it’s not so appealing anymore.
If you don’t want to deal with cauliflower ear, you’d better invest in headgear or ear guards for BJJ. It’s not a huge cost, and there are several products that can be comfortably worn in both rolling and drills.
Our top picks are the Gold BJJ Headgear and the Venum “Kontact Evo” Ear Guard. Both these products provide comprehensive ear protection, together with the comfort and design to ensure you can roll like normal.