How to Buy Wrestling Headgear (Ear Guards)

One of the most common injuries for wrestlers is cauliflower ears. While they are a status symbol in some cultures, most western wrestlers tend to avoid any change of acquiring them as they are usually painful and in the end turn out to be quite ugly. In fact, folkstyle wrestling (highschool and collegiate wrestling in the US) requires that all wrestlers wear protective headgear or ear guards during competition. While it is not mandatory for either freestyle or greco-romam wrestling, a good set of headgear will prevent them from developing. If your son or daughter is worried about getting "Big Ears" well fitted headgear will go a long way to keep them away.

Size
Most headgear comes in one size and adjusts to fit, although you can purchase youth sizes for your younger wrestler. Depending on the design of the headgear you'll need to adjust 2-4 straps (1-3 straps around the head and a chin strap) to ensure a good fit. It is important that the headgear fit snug to the head. If the headgear is too loose, it will move around and become a distraction for the athlete.

Style
The main difference for most headgear is style or design. The main styles include traditional and halo and come in either plastic, soft material, or the more rugged hard design. The traditional headgear tend to have more room around the ear and are best suited for those with larger ears or for those with early signs of cauliflower ears while the halo design is best for those with smaller ears or for those yet to experience cauliflower ears.

The plastic models tend to be a little less comfortable, especially if they don't fit well, while the more traditional models made with aluminum can actually contribute to cauliflower ears. In fact, if your son or daughter already has cauliflower ears (or is showing early signs), I'd recommend going with either the soft halo design or the soft traditional model (Cliff Keen makes a great traditional model with Lycra neoprene and deeper ear cups). While I was never a big fan of the softer headgear (they tended to move around to much due to my small head), many of today's design have made big strides during the past ten years and are much more comfortable, and ergonomically correct than they were in the early 90s. I also didn't care for the plastic halo design as I found the strap would sometime rub into my chin.

Price
The price for most headgear varies between $14 - $25. The halo and soft designs tend to be at the lower end of the price scale while the more traditional designs tend to hover around the high end (due to the extra room and more solid construction).

Which ever style you choose, it's best to try on a few pair before making the purchase. If available, ask those on your team the best pair to buy.

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