Hakuōho Shoulder Surgery Confirmed: Kyujo for Aki, Likely Longer

Hakuōho, Miyagino-beya’s rookie sensation, has had surgery on his shoulder and will not compete in the upcoming Aki-basho. The shoulder injury is a subluxation of the left shoulder, or partial dislocation. It is a common injury among athletes in sports like boxing and American football. Non-surgical treatment includes icing to reduce swelling, medication for pain, wearing a sling, and limiting motion to avoid recurrence. This is followed by physical therapy and exercises to target strengthening the muscles associated with stabilization of the shoulder.

He had injured his right shoulder in high school and had surgery on it prior to “going pro.” But we’ve all seen the massive tape wrapping on his left shoulder recently, and we’ve seen him grimace in pain several times after bouts. He had been kyujo from the summer jungyo due to the injury and a desire to allow it to heal without surgery. However, the pain continued and he decided to have surgery, which was performed on August 31.

According to this study of NFL shoulder instability injuries, surgery may help limit risk of recurrence or extend the period of time he will be able to compete before suffering a recurrence. This study also mentions some of the benefits but also discusses the substantially longer time to “return to play” for those who opt for surgery, compared to those who do not. If he’s out for 26-36 weeks (the optimistic to average timelines from the study) that will mean he will not compete until March or May.

Hopefully the fact that it’s a partial dislocation may help mitigate some of the risks? I do not have details of his case or operation, whether it was performed arthroscopic or open, which seems to make a difference. These should also be assessed on a case-by-case basis, obviously. But it’s safe to say he will be out for the rest of the year.

He will fall to Juryo in November, likely Makushita in January and March. If he’s out until May, he might come back in Sandanme. His goal, however, is not just to be in Makuuchi. Clearly, hopes are pinned on him becoming Ozeki or Yokozuna. The current Yokozuna serves as an example that such comebacks are possible.

9 thoughts on “Hakuōho Shoulder Surgery Confirmed: Kyujo for Aki, Likely Longer

  1. Good healing and good luck to him. He looked to have plenty of determination for the climb back up. Hopefully we’ll see him and Hoshoryu face off with smoldering niramai again then.

  2. I’m guessing that having the surgery will in all likelihood shorten his Sumo career. Hopefully he’ll come back strong and storm through the ranks and reach his potential before these cronic injuries force him out at an early age just like the current and soon to be retired Yokozuna.
    I had and still have great hope for this young man but have this type of problem this early in his pro career does not bode well.

    • I think it’s far more likely that having the surgery now will lengthen his career significantly. He’s still young and should heal pretty well because he hasn’t spent a year further aggravating the injury by trying to gut it out.

      Dropping the ranks will suck, yeah, but it’s not a big deal imo. He’s only 20 and he’s proven that he’s got what it takes to smash through the lower ranks very quickly. If he comes back in March he could probably be back in makuuchi by the end of next year.

  3. I can tell you, if nothing else, that shoulders are damned complicated joints, and if one thing goes wrong without being fixed, it can start to take other pieces of the joint with it. If any part of the labrum was torn, that requires surgery to fix—it doesn’t heal on its own. A small tear can be managed, but especially in a sport so heavy in shoulder impact, better to get it fully fixed and spend the necessary time for a total recovery.

    This means, FWIW, that dropping further can have a benefit in terms of more “rehab assignments”, if you will. This type of injury does have a 6-9 month rehab period, but it takes longer to really feel 100%. If he takes three bashos off, that’s at least two competitions outside of juryo before he rises back to the salaried ranks. A year without fifteen day competition could do wonders for him in the long run.

  4. I only wish he had pulled the trigger and gotten the surgery immediately after Nagoya. I was fortunate enough to play Division 1 American football when I was in college (offensive line, hence my passion for watching big guys duke it out) and I had some bum shoulders like Hakuōho. Three shoulder surgeries in four years for very similar sounding injuries (torn labrum, torn rotator cuff, and constant subluxations). I would always have the surgery within a week of the season ending (usually December) and would be full go by the time summer workouts started in June. Which is why it stinks he lost an additional 1.5 months with the delay. I know there are MAJOR differences between the two sports (read: offseason), and I am hoping he has a smooth recovery, no more shoulder issues, and a fast return to Makuuchi! We are rooting for you, Hakuōho!

  5. Hakuoho says he has underdeveloped shoulder joints, per Chris Sumo. Consider it an irreparable design flaw. It’s the inability to compete continuously, without interruption, over a period of sufficient time that all his other attributes say he should make Yokozuna. He will never reach Ozeki. There’s no one single surgery that can remove that design flaw so he doesn’t have to drop out of competitions. Such surgeries as he has will extend the date of his last bout of his career from the first of his career, but with periods recovering from surgeries. That’s not the career extension he needs reach Yokozuna.


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