The main role of BJJ headgear is to provide protection and specifically to protect the ears, and in some cases, other structures on your head and face as well.
Ear guards have been around for a long time, they are now made with newer technologies which means you get extended features like protection from abrasions and even shock absorption. Plus, BJJ headgear is now comfortable there are innovative materials and a whole host of adjustment properties available to you at all times.
The best pieces of BJJ headgear are made of Neoprene or Nylon, so that they cause no adverse reaction at all. Plus, they’re extremely lightweight, while still offering more protection than heavier-duty olde-school ones. All the optional adjustment allows you to ensure no slippage even during the toughest rolls. And, importantly, most of the modern designs are also friendly on your training partners skin.
So, why should you consider BJJ headgear? Don’t most grapplers roll without it? Well, there’s a catch. You could go and roll without headgear for life and never develop any ear issues. However, this is highly individual, sadly, it is the exception rather than the rule. That means that most people reading this have a good chance of developing cauliflower ear if they roll often for years and do not use headgear.
Cauliflower ear happens when all the squeezing and grinding we do causes small breaks and tears in the cartilage of our ear shells. Repeated trauma from grappling often causes hematomas to form in the ear, between the skin and cartilage. This puts the cartilage under pressure, eventually deforming it permanently. Doing this over and over again causes the formation of connective tissue which greatly exacerbates the problem. In other words, your ears get thicker and more cauliflower-like with every little bump, grind or crush during rolling. And it is irreversible.
There is the option of draining your cauliflower ear. However, this needs to be done while the injury is fresh. The only thing with people sensitive to this, though is that they’ll have to do it quite often. Imagine having to go at least once a week to a doctor’s office and have your ear(s) drained. Sure, you could do it in the gym as well, but that way, you’re risking infection and making things even worse.
The answer might just be a good pair of Ear Guards.