Lisburn mother's silicon guards save sport players from curse of cauliflower ear
It has long been the rugby players' curse, but a Northern Ireland mother may have finally found a way to prevent the cauliflower ear.
Brenda Phillips, a dental technician from Lisburn in Co Down whose son has played the sport all his life, has invented a silicon ear guard to prevent injury and protect cartilage.
The invention is already in use by rugby players, judo professionals and wrestlers.
The rugby mum is now hoping to roll it out to all contact sports internationally.
Ms Phillips said: "Cauliflower ears aren't that nice to look at it. But it isn't just about aesthetics, they can be very painful and can also cause ear damage.
"People who play contact sports like rugby and wrestling protect their teeth, so why not protect their ears?"
The mother-of-two, whose son Connor, 23, and hockey player daughter Naomi, 25, also wear the mouth-guards she manufactures, said she first came up with the idea four years ago while watching a game of rugby on television.
"I was sitting watching the TV with Connor. John Afoa (former Ulster player), had a piece of cotton wool, or some sort of protection on his ear. He got rugby tackled and his ear burst open again," said Ms Phillips.
"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."
Ms Phillips, a trained dental technician, started up her own dental laboratory 18 years ago in her living room.
Two years ago she bought an old church hall in Finaghy from former DUP leader the late Rev Ian Paisley, where he once preached.
That building is now her family business, Lambeg Dental Laboratory, which she runs with her son and daughter.
It is from there that Caulear Protection Ear Shields are manufactured.
Ms Phillips said the shields can help prevent ear injuries and trauma, as well as protect ear cartilage.
They can be used in all impact sports such as wrestling, rugby, boxing, cricket and water polo.
She said: "Connor played rugby from mini rugby. From he was wee he was always having to have head gear on and gloves and mouth guards to protect him. I always would have worried about him getting injured.
She added: "That day watching John Afoa, I said 'I'm going to make something'. I took an impression of Connor's ear and made an ear shield. Now his ears are protected.
"The checks have been done and as far as I am aware there is nothing else like this in the world. It is patent pending.
"It is early days but there is a lot of interest in it. I got the idea through the rugby but it seems to be really hitting the wrestling ones because they have to wear big cuffs to protect their ears.
"These are compact. You can hear with them and you have full view with them.
"I believe this is the way forward for all contact sports. I mean, who wants to have cauliflower ears?"