Update on Hakuho’s Injury

As you have all probably seen, Hakuho injured his arm in his match with Kakuryu on Haru Basho’s senshuraku. Injured to the extent that he could not lift the emperor’s cup and had to be assisted.

We may hear very little about this injury and his status, as the sumo world tends to be secretive about these things. Hakuho tends to be slightly more open about the state of his health, but only when he deems it appropriate. For example, in his post-yusho interview he revealed that he hurt his knee again on day 8 (fighting Tochiozan) and had to do day 9 and 10 on painkillers. In real time he was mum about this.

So at the moment, this is what we know: the injury is probably a muscle tear. It’s not clear whether complete or partial. The morning after the injury he has been able to lift the arm somewhat, but not to lift a glass of water.

Araiso oyakata – the former Kisenosato – wrote a basho summary for Sponichi, and had this to say about Hakuho’s injury:

The worrying part is the injury to his arm. I was on duty maintaining order during the yusho parade, and it must have been seriously painful, for him to say to me “It’s torn. Hurts, doesn’t it”?

I have my own experience with torn muscles. If the injury is grave, it becomes hard to produce power with it – it may drop to 80%, 90%.

The yokozuna has been able to bring himself back from his knee injury to a yusho-winning level, so he knows how to take care of himself, but this is a worrying development.

Araiso oyakata, Sponichi Annex

At first the media reported that the Yokozuna will undergo further examinations. But in his morning interviews, it turned out he did not visit the hospital. “I was told this injury may be healed through rest, so I’m going to take a break from sumo for a while and rest it”. He also said he will decide whether to join the Jungyo in a few days.

This statement from him is quite worrying, as a muscle tear needs to be treated soon after injury or the window of opportunity will be missed. Furthermore, I would have expected him at least to go to hospital and be thoroughly checked – undergo an MRI, at least.

To sum up:

  • Possible muscle tear.
  • Currently unable to lift even a glass of water.
  • If he was checked by professionals, it was not at any facility that offers imaging.
  • Currently resting his arm and hoping it will improve.

Tachiai will keep monitoring the situation and we will update you on any changes.

30 thoughts on “Update on Hakuho’s Injury

  1. Thanks for writing this up – I had hoped that lessons learned from Kisenosato would apply here. Lets hope Hakuho gets things looked after before the window to repair this closes.

  2. for him to make that remark to Arasio oyakata and then to say he’s just going to rest – good grief! the admission itself would indicate the seriousness and yet ‘let’s rest and see’…. didn’t do Kise any good did it… that’s one lesson that should have been learned!!!! C’mon Boss – use that brain of yours and get thee to a hospital for scans at the very least!….

  3. Thanks for the update.

    It would be a huge indictment of sumo, at least from an external perspective, if the greatest rikishi of all time had to retire prematurely due to the cultural status quo meaning even modest standards of modern sports medicine are not applied.

    Let’s hope it isn’t serious and the advice is sound.

  4. Is there inflammation or swelling that they’re waiting to go down? This just sounds really out of character for Hakuho…

    • I made many speculations about this on Twitter. He may have realized his chances are slim to go through surgery-rehab-practice and still be able to do sumo at Yokozuna level at age 35, and decided to call it quits. If so, he will just buy time until he can get that Japanese citizenship and retire.

      Another speculation I made was that he is waiting until the YDC (and possibly the NSK board meeting) have convened before declaring any long-term kyujo, to avoid criticism.

      • hopefully neither one of these 2 options will take long and then he can seek treatment. that said, if it’s as serious as we all think won’t that scupper his 2020 Tokyo Olympics dream?

  5. This portion of the Japan News article on Hakuho’s injury astounds me:

    Asked about the extent of the injury, he replied, “Probably [the muscle or tendon] is torn.”

    Hakuho said he can better sympathize with former yokozuna Kisenosato (current sumo elder Araiso), who recently retired due to the effects of an injury to his left chest area.

    “I kind of get a feeling of what he went through,” Hakuho said.

    Hakuho, who underwent treatment for the arm injury the previous night, said he has more mobility, adding that he will rest for the time being to allow it to heal.

    • On that article, note that — after receiving treatment — he says that his muscle or tendon “probably” is torn. In other words, he’s not sure. What kind of treatment could be given for an undiagnosed injury?!?

      Also note that he’s mindful of Kisenosato’s situation, has a feeling for what Kisenosato went through, yet seems determined to follow the same path as Kisenosato.

      Given these observations, Herouth’s speculations make a lot of sense.

      • I am calling it now…Goeido is going to take advantage…he’s going to rampage through the next two basho and be promoted Yokozuna for September!

        PS – I love this sport, I like Japan…but FFS go to the F’ing hospital and get an MRI…

          • Ironically, one has to think he’s amongst those better suited to face him…Kakuryu is fading, Takakeisho has the wrong style, Tochi’s knees are toast…I’d say that the best options for defeating Ichi are Mitakeumi, Takayasu and Goeido…Goeido is damn fast…

            • Well, he defeated Mitakeumi, Takayasu and Goeido this tournament. Tochinoshin was the only one he didn’t defeat.

              • Goeido is plotting his revenge as I type…the fire in Goeido’s heart will not be quenched until Yokozuna’dom is his!

  6. by and by we’ll see what is really what about this
    it took awhile for the picture to develop in kisenosato’s case

    and this is hakuho
    if mitakeumi can kachi-koshi on one leg, even a one armed hakuho might still be in the game

    i only wish
    but hoping for a best case scenario going forward

    • It hasn’t been revealed publicly so I don’t know, but it seems that he hasn’t applied as yet. Once he does apply, it will take a few months for it to go through – less than usual because his wife is Japanese.

      Once he applies, he has to relinquish his Mongolian citizenship, which is why he is putting it off.

      • Is he currently on a spousal visa or the same visa as other sumo wrestlers? Would the difference affect the speed of the process?

        • As far as I know, rikishi start their career on an Entertainment visa. But as the years go by, many of them seek – and attain – permanent residence status. This status is not connected to their marital status. Being married to a Japanese spouse is not mandatory, but requests are processed more quickly if your spouse is Japanese. The end result is the same, though.

  7. Wishing Hakuho a speedy recovery.
    Regarding his visa status, does he want, permenent Japanese citizenship? His spouse visa will allow him to live without giving up his Mongolian citizenship.

    • If he wants to continue in sumo after his active career, e.g. start his own stable, he has to obtain Japanese citizenship. I think that is the main reason.

  8. Still wondering: Here in the US, injections of stem cells are being used to cure, or much improve, anything from creaky knees to a lifetime of ongoing pain from extensive professional football injuries.  I know Japan’s medicos have been doing stem cell injections for diseases, and wonder if, or why, this hasn’t been tried for sumo injuries like Hakuho’s.

    • Injections of stem cells are an unproven, possibly illegal treatment. Quoting from the FDA statement on stem cell therapy:

      The only stem cell-based products that are FDA-approved for use in the United States consist of blood- forming stem cells (hematopoietic progenitor cells) derived from cord blood.

      These products are approved for limited use in patients with disorders that affect the body system that is involved in the production of blood (called the “hematopoietic” system). These FDA-approved stem cell products are listed on the FDA website. Bone marrow also is used for these treatments but is generally not regulated by the FDA for this use.

      All medical treatments have benefits and risks. But unproven stem cell therapies can be particularly unsafe.

      For instance, attendees at a 2016 FDA public workshop discussed several cases of severe adverse events. One patient became blind due to an injection of stem cells into the eye. Another patient received a spinal cord injection that caused the growth of a spinal tumor.

      So I think that pretty much answers the “why”.


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