NI woman's invention tackles cauliflower ear on rugby pitch
It has long been the rugby player's curse, but a mother from Northern Ireland may have finally found a way to prevent cauliflower ear.
Brenda Phillips, a dental technician from Lisburn 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.
She is now hoping to roll it out to all contact sports internationally.
The mother-of-two, whose son Connor (23) and hockey player daughter Naomi (25) also wear the mouthguards she manufactures, said she came up with the idea four years ago while watching the sport on television.
"John Afoa (former Ulster player) had a piece of cotton wool, or some sort of protection, on his ear. He got 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 dental technician, started her own dental laboratory 18 years ago in her living room.
Two years ago she bought an old church hall in Finaghy where former DUP leader Ian Paisley used to preach. That building is now her family business, Lambeg Dental Laboratory.
She runs it with her son and daughter.
It is from there that Caulear Protection Ear Shields are manufactured.
She said: "Connor played rugby from mini rugby. From he was wee, he was always having to have head gear on, and gloves and mouthguards, to protect him. I always would have worried about him getting injured.
"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."