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Cliff Keen Wrestling Headgear – Elite Protective Ear Guards
Without headgear to protect the ears, wrestlers risk permanent scarring and disfigured ears. Cauliflower ear is a very common condition in wrestling that causes constant shock to the ear. In a standing position, wrestlers grind their foreheads into their opponent’s ears and temples for an advantageous maneuver. A good takedown is achieved by driving your opponent with your head and often landing with your ear on his hip. The ears also take a constant beating on the floor in the mat. It doesn’t take long for all this friction to directly injure the skin and cartilage of the ear. The most common injury involves a separation of the skin and cartilage that creates a painful, swollen sac of fluid. This is a serious injury that will require minor surgery and will definitely require walking off the mat. Without surgery, the severe swelling will subside but the space left from the separation will remain, eventually filling in again, leaving behind a scar each time. While some are more prone to this problem than others, it’s serious enough to wear protective ear guards virtually every time you wrestle.
Despite the potential inconvenience, severe pain, possible surgery and even permanent disfigurement, most wrestlers are incredibly negative about wearing headgear. During the season you will see almost every wrestler pairing up in tournaments. However, headgear is required in school sports. The real opinions come out in the off-season. If not required for a match, you may see some wrestlers wearing protective ear guards. Most rarely train with them and you will get very few favorable responses when asked why. The fact is that wrestlers hate headgear. Wrestlers’ moms and coaches love them and make them wear them. Another fact is that you can’t wrestle in any tournaments that really matter without it, so it’s here to stay. With this in mind, it’s smart to choose a brand that offers the best protection and performance while being the least intrusive. This is the reason why you will see most wrestlers wearing the same brand of wrestling headgear, Cliff Keen, in tournaments.
After a career as a legendary wrestling trainer, Cliff Keen spent many days in the industry learning what athletes need to perform at their best. It began manufacturing and selling wrestling gear in 1958 and has been manufacturing equipment that has been a staple of the sport for more than 50 years since its inception. Innovative supplies worn and used by referees and athletes in tournaments and practice rooms around the world, Cliff Keen is perhaps best known as the father of wrestling headgear. As a true testament to his genius, the basic design of the traditional headgear he created has changed little since its inception and is still used today in nearly every level of wrestling. Compared to some competing brands, Cliff Keen headgear offers the lowest profile, most secure fitting and highest performing ear guards in the business. As time progressed, only Cliff Keen developed wrestling ear protection, producing three different models, the Signature (Traditional), Twister, and Tornado.
The Cliff Keen signature headgear is also known as the ‘traditional’ model and is probably the most used in all of wrestling. It is made of a hard plastic round cup covered with firm, padded foam to fit over both ears. The foam is a key part of Cliff Keen’s original patent from 50 years ago as it is firm enough to withstand the many abuses of walking around the mat while still creating a comfortable padded contact on the skin/head around the ear. The hard inner cup provides full ear protection and the padded outer foam has a sticky surface so it glides against the mat during combat. Four straps hold the Cliff Keen signature headgear in place and give it a very flattering profile tight against the head. These ear protectors are very lightweight and fully adjustable for a perfect fit. Adult-sized signature head gear can also be adjusted to fit youth, but you’ll need to cut the straps shorter with a pair of scissors.
The advantages of Cliff Keen Signature Traditional Head Gear are many and somewhat obvious as they are the best selling ear guards of all time. They are very strong and can last many seasons if you take care of them. This includes wiping with anti-bacterial soap wipes to keep the padding clean and moisturized. However, most wrestlers ignore their signature headgear and toss it in their bag until the next match, eventually causing wear and tear. When Cliff Keen’s traditional ear protectors begin to wear down, bacteria can develop cracks in the padding and lead to skin infections. Fortunately, signature headgear is very affordable (under $35 at most stores) and many wrestlers pick up a new pair each season. Adjusting Cliff Keen traditional head gear is somewhat of a burden and is often done before the first wear. Set them tight and they will loosen up a bit after training a few times to get the perfect fit. A very worn set of signature head gear is more trouble than it needs to be adjusted because the padding/cups will cause small grooves in the straps and make them nearly impossible to replace.
The Tornado wrestling headgear is a later model from Cliff Keen that is definitely a step up from the traditional signature style. These ear protectors are a successful attempt to correct some of the shortcomings that traditional headgear may have. Based on a revolutionary design from research actually done by NASA, the Tornado headgear is 43% lighter and significantly cooler to wear. They also have an ear cup that helps amplify the volume so you can better hear the bins around you. The Cliff Keen Tornado headgear straps are made with material webbing and a velcro/snap system that is much easier and quicker to adjust than the classic signature model. The padding on these wrestling ear guards is also softer and more comfortable against the skin. While the Tornado performs better than conventional in the short term, it doesn’t seem to have the same longevity as the Signature headgear. If there’s a downside to the Tornado style, it’s with the padding. Towards the end of their life, the ear padding begins to become very soft, lose its elasticity and flatten. This is when it’s time to buy another pair but the training should last a full year of abuse.
The newest addition to Cliff Keen’s wrestling headgear family is called the Twister. This model is another attempt to improve on the bare essentials, but it’s closer to the Tornado than the Signature. The Twister has the same basic arrangement as the Tornado headgear so it offers the same great performance benefits; Cool, comfortable, extremely light, easily adjustable and good sound quality. The main difference between the two is that the Cliff Keen Twister headgear has only two head straps instead of three. For some, this is a plus for even quicker/easier fitting; To others, the 2-strap system doesn’t feel as secure. With the same type of head padding used on the Tornado ear guards, the Twister also has similar problems with the padding flattening out over time. It should also be noted that strap systems with velcro will show wear and tear depending on the number of times the wrestling head gear is put on/taken off.
When shopping for wrestling headgear, the list of varieties is somewhat limited. There are only a few other companies that offer wrestling ear guards and most are just offering a version of what Cliff Keen has already mastered. While this article mentions both the pros and cons of the different models available, it should be noted that the pros far outweigh the cons. Wrestling is a tough sport and most gear (including shoes, singlets, knee pads, bags, etc.) only lasts one season no matter how well it is cared for. Despite this article listing wear and tear as a drawback associated with Cliff Keen headgear, these ear defenders last longer, or at least longer than any other. Aside from color or style requirements imposed by your team, wrestling headgear is a matter of personal preference. However, the fact is that if you choose something other than Cliff Keen, you’re probably making a mistake.
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