On average it takes ten years for people to address their hearing loss
Best Ear Protection and Scrum Caps for Rugby Players
How Can Playing Rugby Affect Your Ears
A common sight in rugby is what is known as cauliflower ear, this is a deformity of the outer ear that has developed over time. It will appear swollen and inflammed. When the cartilage of the ear is injured by trauma to the ear, the blood supply from the skin is disrupted often causing a hematoma, a pocket of blood, as the injury heals the skin folds in on itself becoming more pale and giving a cauliflower appearance hence then name.
Ear Drum Rupture
The force of a hard knock to the ear has the potentail to cause a rupture to the ear drum, resulting in pain, pontential infection, tinnitus and hearing loss.
If your worry is about protecting your ears and your hearing ability. The answer to whether ear tape in rugby is enough, is simply, no. In any contact sport such as rugby there are risks of head trauma. In light of this it is important to remember there are ways you ccan help protect your ears.
As we write this post, the 2019 Wales Vs England Six Nations Rugby match is happening. You can see a mix of different ways players are protecting their ears. Although some members of the rugby squad are more prone to trauma depending on the position they play.
It is a choice of the rugby player themselves if they wear protective head gear or tape up the ears.
Ear Protection Types
When it comes to ear tape, this is a method used to help keep your ear together and cover any previous sore spots on your ears. What it cannot do is dampen the impact of trauma.
Your outer ear protrudes from your head making it a key part of your body that can get knicked, pulled, or even ripped off.
Ear tape ables you to keep you fleshy outer ear together. It is not uncommon to tear the top part of your ear. Applying ear tape will help to keep the ear together but this depends greatly on how well it has been applied. Ear tape can also be used to make the ear more flush with the head but again there are no guarantees that it will move or come off while playing causing more of a nuissance.
In a similar manner you could use a rugby headband, however there is no guarantee this is going to stay in place.
The best protection available for rugby players are specifically designed scrum caps. They are designed with impact in mind, meaning that any blow will be much dampened by the specific cushioning in the cap.
One of the down sides often questioned when wearing a scrum cap is that you already get very warm playing rugby so to wear headgear you'd increase heat in your head and how uncomfortable it is. Also some rugby players feel they cannot hear as well and therefore do not wear anything on their head.
If these are reasons putting you off, look for a cap that allows your head and ears to breathe while still protecting them.
Another reason for not using head gear or a scrum cap is that it gives the opposition an extra item to pull on. However new updates in rugby rules have meant that more should be done to ensure player welfare from match officials ensuring that foul play such as high tackles and neck contact (law 9.13 & 9.20) is strictly penalised. Every time the head or the neck is deliberately grabbed or choked, the offending player runs the risk of receiving a yellow or red card.
There are much more reasons to wear headgear. than not to, especially if you want to protect your ears and head.
A scrum cap is also a lot quicker to get on and remove once off the pitch by popping it on your head and then doing the buckle. In comparison using ear tape is much more fiddly and if taping around your head will likely require someone to help you apply it. It is a cheaper option however a good scrum cap that you find fits you, protects you and still allows you to function your best while playing rugby is invaluable.
Be an advocate for better ear health for rugby players and get the right headgear for you.
Tips for Rugby Players To Help Ear Trauma
- The best way to protect your ears is with a headguard that has extra padded ear cups for your ears. It is recommended for forwards more however ALL rugby players have the risk of developing cauliflower ear as it is a close contact/high impact sport no matter where you are on the field, look into getting headgear to reduce the risk of damange to your ears.
- Choose a headguard that is IRB approved.
- Do not rely on a headguard to stop against concussion, head trauma or injury, a headguard will help to prevent it from occuring, you're protecting your ears and head.
- Keep up your training on tackle techniques and contact training and these skills will help you to better disarm or understand how to reduce impact using your own judgements and movements.
- Make sure the scrum cap you use is correctly fitted, if too loose or too tight this could also cause injury to your ears. If unable to get a scrum cap in time for a game, taping your ears is another way which will help soften the blow to your ears (See video below).
- Seek a Doctors opinion if a cauliflower ear has developed no matter how superficial it looks
- Trauma to the ear via sport is becoming more and more common, be aware of the risks and prevention methods and help share prevention methods with other players. Communicating about all aspects of the sport within rugby union or league could help you elsewhere in the game.
What you wear to protect your head is crucial to looking after your ears as a rugby player. Your ear is a robust yet fragile organ and once damaged can leave permanent ear damage, hearing loss or tinnitus. As the game becomes more and more popular and technology comes more and more into the game the risk of damage is now higher. Rugby is becoming faster paced, the impact is becoming bigger and fellow rugby players are learning how to become stronger. So these days rugby headguards /skull caps are helpful more than ever. What is important is that when you are selecting a rugby headguard that you choose one that have been IRB approved and meet World Rugby Regulations.
Headguards For Rugby Players
The Optimum Men's Atomik Headguard uses OPT-HEX closed cell hexaganol padding throughout. This material is strong yet durable. This type of padding helps provide good moudibility to your head which absorbing the impact that your head alone would take otherwise. The padding is internally lined with a anti-bacterial material so that along with the vent holes in the cap will help your head to breathe and not build up with moisture and sweat.
To make the headguard fit your head shape, their are 3 size options, small, medium and large. The chip strap is an adjustable velcro strap and to the back of the cap is an elasticated draw string to tighten it.
This head guard takes ear protection seriously and has incorporated it into the design, that is sculptured around the outside of the ear. For you ears to sit comfortably within the head guard and help pretect them from trauma. This head guard is IRB approved.
The KOOGA Essentials Headguard uses a high density EVA foam material. The head guard is adjustable via the the chin velcro strap at the front and with laces at the back of the head guard. The headguard comes with several size options and colour choices.
The KOOGA Essentials is made, tested and approved by professionals in the game, check it's price on Amazon.
Around the ears is full padding around the rim and feels snug and secure around the ears. In the centre of each ear is a good amount of ventilation to have a balance of protection and sound through the helmet. There is also further ventillation through out the helmet.
The Mitre Siege Head Guard uses high density foam that has been shaped to balance out the impact across the headguard and is particularly reinforces in key impact zones . The design aims to provide a superb comfortable fit that helps protect your neck as well as your head. The headguard also uses an elasticated chin strap which prevents any movement of the headguard while in play.
The ear protection of this headguard is similar to the rest of the protection to the skull but have been reinforced in such a way as to protect from impact across the area and prevents your ears from being vulnerable.
The Canterbury Airflow uses a 10mm advanced compound foam, it is the premier headguard by Canterbury. This headguard is soft and very comfortable to wear. The cap can be adjusted at the back and with the chin strap for further comfort.
It is evident that a lot of thought has gone into the design. The headguard aims to maximise padding areas including the cheek bones and the ears as well as ventilation points in specific points in the headguard for air to circulate and keep your head cool as you perspirate. The head guard design encorporates a head impact band across key impact areas of the head that need protecting. The foam banding across the temple makes sure that impact force is distrubuted in a way that negates the force away from those key impact areas.
The chin strap is designed to break under extreme conditions this preventing damage from underneath and releasing the the strap and this headguard is IRB approved.
Earbands for Rugby Players
One of the main reasons the ears can become a very likely area to get punished while playing rugby is its 'non stream line' appearance. Sticking out of your head whether you have a small or big outer ear, over time, you can have problems with continuous trauma. It is not just a case of being bashed against but your ear getting caught by someones boot from the top or pulled at even potentially tearing your ear. If you cannot for whatever reason wear a headguard then using a headband that covers over your ears will help to keep them flat and un-obtainable to be caught accidently, whether you are in a ruck or scrum, it will help with preventing ear trauma.
The Venum Kontact Evo Earguards are made from neoprene as is a one size fits all stretchy band that goes around both ears and also has a chin strap. For each ear there is a strong mould shell to help house your ears comfortably and keep them safe from bumps, pulls, scrapes and scratches. It does lack ventilation holes and ability to hear through it but this is negated by the gap at the top which should help with keeping your head cool.
It comes in three different sizes and it is important you check your head circumferance matches as if it is a little large and is the band in knocked upwards then the headband may try to come off your head and it won't be doing it's job protecting your ears.
Rugby Tackle headband is made from neoprene. This headband is a simple designed band that still provides you with the needed support over your ears, vital heat and compression and help cover up any scars or injuries.
Maxx Earguards are made from a neoprene, that comes in two parts which works as three way system for closure for a flexible and snug fit. The earguard requires you to feed the thinner inner section into the larger and velcro down, there is also further adjustability with the wide comfortable strap that goes under your chin. The neoprene material is strong but the sewing detail over time seems to fray a little. There are hard moulded cups around the ears this will help prevent any abrasions to the ears while the game is in play. The ear cups also have three large ventilation holes to allow air to circulate and mean you are still able to hear with them on.
Ear Taping for Rugby Players
A common practice in rugby is 'ear taping'. Ear taping is literally wrapping a bandange around you head to keep your ears fixed to your head leaving your ears less vulnerable to being pulled at, teared, or scratched and other general ruck, tackle and scrummage trauma. Ear taping is not our first choice in protecting your ear as the bandage does not provide any impact absorption or any realprotection from other players and the ground hitting you. However if you are going to use this method it is handy to use the correct type of bandage. Using any type of sticky tape or bandage could irritate the skin, be difficult and very uncomfortable to remove.
First Aid 4 Sport Bandage and other sport tapes on Amazon are specifically designed for situations such as taping around your ears. This bandage does not stick to your head or skin at all, it sticks to itself making it easy to wrap, easy to remove and comfortable to wear. It just requires you to apply it tightly enough and correctly (see video below). It also has the ability to be reworn again if still in an OK condition after a game of rugby.