Japanese wrestler Hibikiriju died of a head injury he sustained in a sumo wrestling match at the end of March. Greater criticism than the tragedy itself was due to the fact that the 28-year-old fighter was left without medical treatment for a long minute after a horrific fall, while the organizers focused on declaring his opponent the winner.
The wrestler, whose civilian name is Mitsuki Amano, was hospitalized in critical condition after an accident on March 26. He died a month later from acute respiratory failure.
“May peace have mercy on him. We express our sincere gratitude to him,” the Japan Sumo Association statement said.
However, her representatives are now facing heavy criticism due to the lack of doctors in the ring called a dojo during sumo matches. In traditional Japanese sports, it is also customary to wait for the defeated fighter to rise from the ground on his own.
“I was scared of that,” said doctor and commentator Mikito Chenin on Twitter. “I couldn’t believe my eyes that the wrestler, whose fall clearly indicates a spinal injury, was left unaided for a few minutes, while the organizers announced the winner,” he wrote. Hideo Ito, an acupuncture and masseur expert who has been treating sumo wrestlers for two decades, said that his hibiki may have damaged his spine when he fell.
“He was a great wrestler, always smiling sweetly and always thinking of others,” Eto’o told AFP, urging doctors to exercise caution in every match.
No further fatal injuries in sumo wrestling have been reported yet, but the increase in safety standards has been intensely discussed since January, when a wrestler who had a concussion was brought back into the ring for a New Year tournament.
Several Japanese sports daily reported that the sumo association is already discussing changes, including having doctors in the ring. So, just like in professional boxing.
“Just the effect of tachiai (initial engagement) is huge,” sports journalist Nippon wrote in his analysis. “One of the best former wrestlers likened the sport to how you break into a car wall every day.”