Sumo wrestler dies month after falling on head during bout

Sumo Wrestler Dies Month After Falling On Head During Bout
Eugene Hoshiko

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2016, file photo, a woman walks past a sumo mural at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, Japan's national sumo stadium, in Tokyo. A Japanese sumo wrestler died of acute respiratory failure Wednesday, April 28, 2021, after suffering a head injury during his bout in a tournament last month, in a case that brought sumo’s emergency response into question.

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese sumo wrestler has died a month after falling on his head during a bout in a case that has raised questions about the sport’s response to medical emergencies.

Hibikiryu, 28, died of acute respiratory failure on Wednesday, the Japan Sumo Association said Thursday.

The wrestler, whose real name was Mitsuki Amano, was thrown by his opponent during a bout at a tournament on March 26. Footage of the bout showed he fell on his head hard and lay face down for several minutes while sumo officials watched and waited for paramedics to arrive.

On a stretcher, the wrestler was conscious and told sumo officials that he felt his lower body was paralyzed, but his condition had been improving at the hospital, Nikkan Sports newspaper reported.

Sumo officials told Japanese media it was unknown whether Hibikiryu’s death was related to his injury. There was no immediate comment from his family.

There were no medical experts standing by to give him first-aid treatment, according to Japanese media reports. Wrestlers are customarily expected to get up by themselves, while medical experts are at the tournament site but not standing by near the ringside.

The ancient Japanese sport, which originally was part of a Shinto religious ritual, has faced calls for reforms, including of its emergency medical response and its bans on women entering the ring, which is considered sacred.

In 2018, the association came under fire after demanding a nurse and other women leave the ring, which they had entered to give first aid to an official who had collapsed.

Hibikiryu debuted in 2011 and rose as high as 24th in the 200-member sandanme-class, fourth highest of sumo’s six ranks.

Another young, lower-tier sumo wrestler, Shobushi, died last May at age 28 after contracting the coronavirus and developing pneumonia.