Kisenosato – Is The End Near?


Perpetually injured Yokozuna Kisenosato has now missed all or part of the last 7 tournaments, tying the record held by the mercurial Takanohano for the longest period of excused absence for a Yokozuna. Kisenosato suffers from a damaged left pectoral muscle, suffered during the final days of the 2017 Osaka basho, a tournament that saw him take his second consecutive Yusho, and his first as a Yokozuna.

Since that unfortunate day in Osaka, Kisenosato has been living on borrowed time. In the critical period immediately following his injury, he decided to try and “heal naturally” rather thank the the only proven cure – surgery to repair the torn muscle. As the weeks passed, the chances that surgery could actually correct the problem drifted towards zero, as the torn tissue scarred and was left useless. As he rested in hopes of recovery, his other muscles de-conditioned, and he lost the ability to execute sumo at the Yokozuna or perhaps even the San’yaku level.

Now left without his primary offensive weapon, his left hand, Kisenosato is nearly out of time. The YDC has declared both the the next basho he enters he must compete the full 15 days, and that they are willing to grant him an unprecedented 8th consecutive kyujo. Sadly for the only current Japanese born Yokozuna, a dozen kyujo cannot help him now, and the question is what form of exit will he take?

  1. Continue To Play For Time – The YDC has signaled they are ready to grant Kisenosato more time. Not that it is likely that more time could have any meaningful outcome for his sumo or his body. The damage is done, and the tear is likely permanent. The only think that would happen would be to move the date that he declares he is done.
  2. Go Out Guns Blazing – I consider this the most likely option. Kisenosato was renowned for never missing a day of practice or of competition. He would perform sumo no matter want, and nothing would stop him. The year+ hiatus probably bothers him terribly, and I suspect he and Takayasu are working out as best they can this June. Either at Nagoya or Aki, Kisenosato would enter and compete, knowing that his body is unlikely to be ready, but he would go out fighting.
  3. Pray For a Miracle – Maybe there is some exotic sports medicine protocol I have not read of that can repair a torn pectoral muscle this long after the original injury, and Kisenosato will negotiate a year off with the YDC, head to some high end clinic and get repaired. But I think this his highly unlikely.

I personally feel deeply sorry for Kisenosato, but after over a year of kyujo, he is likely going to be asked to retire soon, unless he can produce a 10+ win basho either at Nagoya or Aki. I know that he takes sumo with the utmost seriousness, and an unprecedented 8th kyujo would be deeply embarrassing to him. But for those worried for his future, Kisenosato holds Elder stock in the sumo association, and will likely go on to run a stable in the coming years. His future in his post-rikishi life is secure. Whichever path he choses to close out his impressive career, we wish him well, and will be following with great interest.

16 thoughts on “Kisenosato – Is The End Near?

  1. Who knows if surgery was the only thing that could help him? I am no doctor and for sure, his way of coping was subpar, but maybe there was another way? Reeducation, a proper treatment?

    • I am not a medical professional myself. But as soon as I saw his injury I knew he had damaged the ligament that connects the pectoral to the shoulder / arm. So I started reading everything I could, and there seems to be near universal agreement in the sports medicine world that immediate surgery offers the best hope of restoration of pectoral function. At least for US doctors, they claim 85% success for most cases if they can operate within a week of injury.

      I suspect that Kisenosato and Takayasu – boon companions that they seem to be, are spending June working out if there is some other way that Kisenosato can execute sumo that does not rely on his damaged muscle. I wish him luck. For an indomitable fighting spirit such as his, he deserves to go out in battle.

  2. Hello from France.
    Honestly, and I am very sad to say that, but I think it is over for Kisenosato san. I love his sumo. He really is one of the few rikishi that can beat Hakuho san. Like it said sometimes on a french blog of sumo, Kisenosato his Hakuho’s nemesis !!!
    But… he didn’t make the good choice after his injuries…
    In sport, when it is to much, you must have surgery, because… there is no other solution….
    If Kisenosato san retired, his fight against Hakuho san will miss me :(

    • Bonjour, j’aimerai bien connaître le nom de ce blog, je suis relativement nouveau dans le monde du sumo et je ne connais pas les rares sites francophones.

  3. March 24 2017. Having been smashed off the dohyo by Harumafuji, Kisenosato tries to rise, grimaces and collapses.

    My first thought was “well we won’t see him again until September” and my second (I’m ashamed to admit) was “Terunofuji yusho! Hooray!”. If only his oyakata had then said “Sorry son, I know that you want to fight through this, but you have to think about your future. I’m pulling you out and getting you booked in for surgery. There’ll be another day”.

    Sadly I don’t think there will be “another day” for Kisenosato.

    • in a parallel universe this DID happen! sadly, not in the one we’re experiencing. hindsight is a wonderful thing but it won’t help him now. it’s just all too sad. u never want to see this happen to any sumo at any level, but for this much beloved giant of the sport (both in size and in heart) – well, it’s just too sad on so many levels

  4. Before that Harumafuji match he looked nearly unstoppable. Shoulder area injuries are so tough to bounce back from, I think it is common that once you blow out your should its never 100 percent again. I hope he takes the extra time, comes back for one more push. Maybe he finds a way to compensate or something, its wishful thinking I know, but I’d like to see him go out on his terms despite being at the end I also think.

  5. I don’t see any viable alternative but retirement. A blaze of glory would be some small consolation at least, My husband and I are watching every old basho since Kintanayama started posting them, and having seen him before the injury I am in awe. Very, very sad.

    • I’m hoping for option 4: direct intai. I hope he does not get on the dohyo again, putting himself at risk of a humbling string of losses and possibly even worse injury. If his keiko is not at an acceptable level, I hope he sees the writing on the wall and realizes he will not make it 15 bouts and anyone he faces will be fighting hard, eyeing a kinboshi.

  6. The fact that it was Harumafuji who injured Kisenosato and the former grand champion didn’t even make it to the end of the year…such a bad year at the top end of sumo ;_;

  7. Medicine has come a long way. There may be a surgical procedure that can help him, probably not found in Japan, and probably months of recovery.


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