Northern Ireland

'Cauliflower ear' tackled by silicone ear guard

John Afoa Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brenda Phillips got the idea for the invention after watching an incident involving former Ulster player John Afoa (above)

A Northern Ireland dental technician believes she may have found a way to prevent the rugby player's curse - cauliflower ear.

Brenda Phillips from Lisburn has invented a silicone ear guard to prevent injury and protect cartilage.

The invention is already in use by rugby players, judo professionals and wrestlers.

Ms Phillips, whose son Connor plays rugby, is now hoping to make it available to all contact sports.

She explained that the idea was sparked by watching an Ulster rugby game on television.

"I was sitting watching the TV with Connor," she said.

'Horrible cauliflower ears'

"John Afoa (former Ulster player), had what looked like a piece of cotton wool, or some sort of protection on his ear.

Image copyright Caulear Protection
Image caption Ms Phillips said the ear guard is lightweight, strong and flexible

"He got rugby tackled and his ear burst open again.

"I said 'In this day and age, why have we not got some protection for our ears?'

"Those horrible cauliflower ears - who wants to have those after playing?

"It's still painful. If you get enough damage on the ear it can cause the canal to swell over so it can affect your hearing. It can be expensive to fix."

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Willie Anderson won 27 caps for Ireland between 1984 and 1990 and has welcomed the invention

Ms Phillips, started up her own dental laboratory 18 years ago in her living room.

Better than leeches?

She later bought a former church hall in Finaghy where former DUP leader Ian Paisley once preached and transformed it into a family business.

This is the base where Caulear Protection Ear Shields are manufactured.

"It is a clear rubber, it is like a silicone rubber," Ms Phillips told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster.

"It is lightweight, strong and flexible and is custom made for individual ears.

Image copyright Caulear Protection
Image caption Ms Phillips is hoping to make the ear guard available to various sports
Image copyright Caulear Protection
Image caption It is already in use by rugby players, judo professionals and wrestlers

"It stays on with a medical skin adhesive which is applied to the fitting surface of the ear - you just pop it in and away you go."

Former Ireland rugby international Willie Anderson, who once used leeches to draw out the blood from a cauliflower ear, has welcomed the development.

"I didn't particularly wear a headguard (when playing rugby), I just used a bit of tape," he said.

"This I think will be a fantastic invention for players, anything that can help that sort of pain will be brilliant."