Japanese sumo wrestler Mitsuki Amano died after falling to the head in a fight on Thursday. The slowness of the rescue intervention shocked Japan, where the sport is very popular.
A Japanese sumo wrestler has died in hospital after falling violently during a fight during the last tournament of the Japanese sport, causing shock waves and calls for better medical supervision. Mitsuki Amano, 28, who fought as Hibikiryu, died of acute respiratory failure in a Tokyo hospital on Wednesday, the Japanese Sumo Association (AJS) reported.
“May his soul rest in peace,” said the chairman of this body which governs Japanese discipline in a statement, expressing the “sincere gratitude” of the AJS for the “contribution” of Mr. Amano to sumo. The wrestler, playing in the fourth division of six in professional sumo, fell on his head after being thrown to the ground by his opponent in a fight on March 26.
The long wait for treatment is shocking in Japan
Images which have been widely circulated on the internet then show him lying motionless, face down, on the clay platform covered with sand (“dohyo”) where the fighting takes place. The long hesitation of those around the dohyo before Hibikiryu ended up receiving medical treatment from a professional several minutes later shocked spectators and internet users.
“When he fell, his head hit the tawara (circle of straw surrounding the dohyo, editor’s note), putting all of his weight on his neck. It is possible that this caused a lesion of the cervical cord,” he told AFP Hideo Ito, masseur, acupuncturist and trainer treating sumo wrestlers for more than 20 years.
The wrestler, weighing 147 kg according to the AJS, was turned over on his back by “yobidashi”, responsible in particular for calling the names of the wrestlers at the start of the fights, a maneuver which should have been carried out by professionals, according to medical experts. The existence of a “possible cause and effect link between the wrestler’s death and his injury is not clear at this stage,” an AJS spokeswoman told AFP, adding that a any announcement on the improvement of emergency medical procedures would not intervene before “a formal decision” on this subject.
Hibikiryu’s death sparked criticism online and in the media over sumo procedures, which the AJS is reportedly considering for modification according to several Japanese sports dailies. “Why does the Sumo Association have the right to treat life and health so lightly?” asked a Twitter user. “I can’t help but think they could have reacted faster,” commented a Nikkan Sports reporter.
Doctors away from the dohyo
“If the sumo association wanted to put safety first, I think the only way would be to have doctors on the edge of the dohyo so that they can quickly assess the situation,” said Ito. Doctors are already present in the Kokugikan, the building where the tournaments are held in Tokyo, but do not stand on the edge of the dohyo during the fights, and it is customary to wait for the fallen wrestlers to get up from them. themselves.
Hibikiryu, who entered sumo just 10 years ago, was “a wonderful rikishi (name given to wrestlers) who always had a friendly smile and was always attentive to others,” recalls Hideo Ito.