Horrifying moment Sumo wrestler is thrown on the head during a fight and lies motionless in the ring for several minutes and is ‘turned over’ by non-medics – before dying in hospital weeks later
- Sumo wrestler known as Hibikiryu has died after landing on the head during a fight
- The 28-year-old was hospitalized after the incident in Japan on March 26
- Questions have arisen after doctors were not ringside for the deadly fight
A Japanese sumo wrestler died a month after landing on his head in battle and lying unattended for minutes on end, raising new concerns about caring for hunters.
Video of wrestler Hibikiryu, 28, who was prone for several minutes after the incident, sparked widespread criticism and questions about why doctors weren’t at ringside.
The lower level wrestler, whose real name was Mitsuki Amano, has reportedly been in the hospital since the March 26 incident.
He died of acute respiratory failure on Wednesday, the Japan Sumo Association said in a statement.
The horrifying moment when Japanese sumo wrestler Hibikiryu (pictured right) was thrown on the head during a fight on March 26 – he died of acute respiratory failure this week
Shortly after the incident, Hibikiryu lay in the abdomen for several minutes before being handed over by non-medics – questions have been raised as to why doctors were not present at the fight
“May his soul rest in peace, and we express our heartfelt gratitude” to him, the statement read.
Doctors in sumo strikes are not ringside, and it is common to wait for wrestlers to rise on their own after throwing or falling.
Hibikiryu was also handed over by officials, which experts said should only have been done by trained medics, given the risk of spinal injury.
The sumo association said, “a causal relationship between the wrestler’s death and his injury is not clear at this time.”
“In terms of improving emergency medical systems, we will make a statement when we make a formal decision on it,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
There are no previous reports of wrestlers dying from injuries sustained in fights, but the sport’s dangers and medical standards have been in the spotlight.
Controversy erupted during the January New Year’s tournament when a wrestler who had suffered a concussion was told to return to the ring, the Sports Nippon Daily reported.
The shock of the ‘tachiai’ (initial charge) would be more than a ton.
The tension and attraction of sumo are fraught with danger, ‘a journalist wrote for the newspaper in an analysis.
He said a former top wrestler had described the sport as ‘experiencing car accidents every day’.
A series of hazing, including revelations of assault and other abuse, have also raised questions about how Sumo treats his fighters.
Hibikiryu’s death sparked widespread criticism of the slow medical response in deeply traditional sport.
The tragic incident where sumo wrestler Hibikiryu was injured in Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan sports arena (stock image)
“This is what I feared,” tweeted Mikito Chinen, a physician and novelist.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when the wrestler, who clearly had a high chance of a spinal cord injury … was left untreated for several minutes while they prioritized announcing who had won.”
Hideo Ito, an acupuncturist and massage therapist who has been treating sumo wrestlers for 20 years, said Hibikiryu may have damaged his spine when he fell.
“He was a great wrestler who always had a friendly smile and was always attentive to others,” Ito told AFP, calling on doctors to be on hand with every fight.
Sumo’s wave of bad publicity in recent years has sparked calls for reform, including rules for admitting women into the ring.
In 2018, the Japan Sumo Association had to apologize after women who came to the aid of an official who had collapsed in a stake were repeatedly told to leave.
Sumo’s dirt rings, known as ‘dohyo’, are considered sacred in Japanese Shinto faith, and women – who are considered ritually unclean – should not enter for fear of profaning the sacred ground.