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Cliff Keen Wrestling Headgear – Elite Protective Ear Guards
Without headgear to protect the ears, wrestlers run the risk of having permanently scarred and disfigured ears. A condition called cauliflower ear is extremely common during matches from the constant pounding in the ears. While standing, wrestlers grind their foreheads into their opponent’s ear and temple for advantageous maneuvering. A good takedown is often achieved by running over your opponent’s head and often landing with your ear on their side. The ears also take a beating, constantly grinding into the pad. With all that friction against the skin and ear cartilage, it doesn’t take long for an injury to occur. The most common injuries involve separation of the skin and cartilage, creating a painful, swollen sac of fluid. This is an acute injury that requires minor surgery and definitely time off the mat. Without surgery, the acute swelling will go down, but the space left after the separation will remain or eventually fill up again, leaving a scar each time. While some seem to be more prone to this problem than others, it is serious enough that you wear ear protection literally every time you wrestle.
Despite the potential discomfort, severe pain, possible surgery and even permanent disfigurement, most wrestlers are surprisingly negative about wearing headgear. During the season, you’ll see almost every wrestler wearing a pair at tournaments. However, this is because headgear is required in school sports. Real opinions only emerge in the off-season. Unless the meet requires it, you see few wrestlers wearing earmuffs. Rarely train with them and you will find very few favorable answers to the question why. The fact is, wrestlers actually hate headgear. It’s the wrestling moms and coaches who love it and make them wear it. The other fact is that you can’t wrestle any tournaments that really matter without him, so he’s here to stay. With that in mind, it makes sense to choose a brand that offers the best protection and performance while being the least intrusive. This is why you will also see most wrestlers wearing the same brand of wrestling headgear, Cliff Keen, at tournaments.
After a career as a legendary wrestling coach, Cliff Keen has worked in the business long enough to know what athletes need to perform at their best. It began manufacturing and selling wrestling equipment in 1958 and has been developing equipment that has been a staple of the sport since its inception for over 50 years. With the innovative gadgets worn and used by referees and athletes in tournaments and training rooms around the world, Cliff Keen is perhaps best known as the father of wrestling headgear. As a true testament to his genius, the original design of the traditional headgear he created has changed very little since its inception and is still widely used in almost all levels of wrestling today. Compared to the few brands that dare to offer competition, Cliff Keen headgear offers the lowest profile, most secure fit and most powerful earmuffs in the industry. As time progressed, only Cliff Keen further developed hearing protection for wrestling, producing three different models, the Signature (traditional), the Twister and the Tornado.
The Cliff Keen Signature Headgear is also known as the “Traditional” model and is perhaps the most commonly used in all of wrestling. It is made of a hard plastic round cup covered with firm, cushioned foam to fit over both ears. The foam is an important part of Cliff Keen’s original patent from over 50 years ago because it is tough enough to take tons of abuse rolling around the pad and still create a comfortable cushioned skin/head contact around the ear. The hard inner cup offers complete ear protection and the padded outer foam has a smooth surface so it glides well on the pad during the fight. Four straps hold the Cliff Keen Signature Headgear in place and give it a very sleek profile close to the head. These ear muffs are very lightweight and fully adjustable for a perfect fit. The Adult Signature head can also be adjusted to fit youth, but you may need to shorten the straps by cutting them with scissors.
The advantages of the Cliff Keen Signature Traditional are many and somewhat obvious as they remain the best selling hearing protectors of all time. They are super sturdy and will last for several seasons if you take care of them. This includes wiping down the padding with antibacterial soapy wipes to keep them clean and moisturized. However, most wrestlers neglect their Signature headgear and simply toss it in their bag until the next tournament, eventually adding to their wear and tear. As Cliff Keen Traditional earmuffs begin to wear, the pads develop cracks with bacteria in the can, leading to skin infections. Fortunately, Signature headgear is very affordable (under $35 at most stores) and many wrestlers opt for a new pair each season. Adjusting the Cliff Keen Traditional headpiece is a bit of a chore and is often done right before the first wear. Put them on tight and after a few practice sessions they loosen up a bit to fit perfectly. A very worn set of Signature headgear that needs to be adjusted is often more trouble than it’s worth as the padding / cup will cause tiny grooves in the straps and make them almost 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 muffs are a successful attempt to improve upon several shortcomings that traditional headgear can have. Based on a revolutionary design from research actually conducted by NASA, the Tornado headgear is 43% lighter and significantly cooler to wear. They also have an earpiece to help amplify the sound so you can hear your corner trainers better. The Cliff Keen Tornado headgear is made with a material strap and Velcro/fastening system that is much easier and faster to adjust than the classic Signature model. The padding of these wrestling ear muffs is also much softer and more comfortable on the skin. While the Tornado may end up performing better than traditional in the short term, it doesn’t seem to have the longevity that Signature headgear tends to have. If there are any downsides to the Tornado style, it’s with the padding. Towards the end of their service life, the ear pads start to get too soft, lose their elasticity and flatten out. That’s when it’s time to buy another pair, but it should last a year of training abuse.
The latest addition to Cliff Keen’s family of wrestling headgear is called the Twister. While this model is another attempt at improving something that needs very little, it’s closer to the Tornado than the Signature. The Twister shares the same basic layout as the Tornado headgear, so it boasts the same great performance benefits; cool, comfortable, extremely light, easy to adjust and have good sound quality. The main difference between the two is that the Cliff Keen Twister headgear only has two head straps instead of three. For some, this is a plus for even faster/easier assembly; others find the 2 strap system not as secure. With the same type of head padding used on the earmuffs as the Tornado, the Twister also has the same issues with the padding flattening out over time. It should also be noted that velcro strap systems tend to show wear due to how often the wrestling headset is put on/off.
When purchasing a wrestling headgear, the list of varieties is somewhat limited. There are only a few other companies that offer wrestling earmuffs and most are just offering their version of what Cliff Keen has already mastered. While this article mentions the pros and cons of the various 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.) will only last about one season no matter how well it is taken care of. Despite this article citing wear and tear as one of the downsides of Cliff Keen headgear, these ear muffs will last longer or at least as long as any other. Aside from the color or style requirements your team requires, wrestling headgear is largely an individual preference. But the fact is, if you choose anything other than Cliff Keen, you’re probably making a mistake.
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