Update on Hakuho’s Injury

The Haru Jungyo – regional tour – started today with a dedication dohyo-iri and competition at Ise Grand Shrine, Mie prefecture.

Hakuho took this opportunity to answer media questions about his injury. As it turned out, he was diagnosed with a tear in the coracobrachialis, an inner muscle located near the short head of the biceps. This is a rare injury.

The Yokozuna says that the tear in this muscle should not prevent him from grabbing the mawashi or doing tsuppari, but flexing his arm “Popeye” style, gives him discomfort. His doctors presented him with a surgical option, but he decided against it, as “it takes too much time”. Instead he opted to rest the muscle.

He plans to consult with his doctors again in the days to come. However, he is not resting at home, but will continue the regional tour with the rest of the sekitori. Currently he is not participating in bouts, and at Ise he performed dohyo-iri and “the senshi vow”.

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.

Akebono New Year Update

While we are waiting for the last basho of the Heisei era, Sports Hochi published a series of articles featuring the 64th Yokozuna Akebono, one of the leading figures to usher in this era, interviewed at the hospital where he is currently admitted.

Akebono with a copy of Sumo Journal covering Takanohana’s retirement

I thought I should share this with the readers of Tachiai, as information about the ailing former Yokozuna has been scarce. If you recall, Akebono has been active in his pro-wrestling career and in social media, when suddenly, in April 2017, He seemed to have dropped off the face of the Earth. One news source revealed that he suffered heart failure and was in an induced coma. His family denied this at the time, claiming he suffered from a leg infection, but in fact, the original report has been true. Since then we have learned that he regained consciousness and was undergoing rehabilitation, but the full situation remained unclear. This Hochi article helps put things in order.

As it turns out, he was feeling unwell for a while when he had his last pro-wrestling event at Omuta, Fukuoka. Following the event, back in his hotel, he started feeling chest pains. The next day, April 12th 2017, he went to the hospital (by car, not ambulance), and walked on his own feet to the examination room. However, in mid-examination, he lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest. His heart stopped beating for 37 minutes.

His daughter, Caitlyn, who is studying in Hawaii, took a flight back to Japan, and together with her brothers, Cody and Connor, joined their mother, Christine, in the care of their father, until he regained his consciousness on April 25th. During this time he was transferred, in a two-day overland journey, from the Fukuoka hospital to a Tokyo facility.

The former Yokozuna weighed 210kg, but his weight dropped during his hospitalization as low as 130kg, though now he has gained some back and weighs at 150kg. He suffers memory loss, and has lost the use of his legs. At first, when he gained consciousness, he mistook his own sons for his two brothers, George and Randy. This was quite a shock for his wife, Christine. He seemed to have switched back to his childhood. She decided to think of it as if she gained a third, big son.

Akebono recalls little of his restless pro-wrestling days, but he recollects his Yokozuna days well, and remembered the author of the Hochi articles, who used to be his personal beat reporter. He can move himself in his wheelchair by his own power. He exercises walking, but only when externally held upright. He has some difficulty communicating. He speaks in short sentences: “good times”, “I remember”, etc., and his wife helps him with some English mixed in with Japanese.

This post is mostly based on the first article in the series. The other articles are a walk down memory lane.

(Yeah, the titles of these articles are somewhat Waka-Taka centered…)

Kakuryu to be absent from Kyushu Basho

Izutsu Oyakata announced today that his deshi, Yokozuna Kakuryu, is going to be kyujo from the Kyushu 2018 basho.

This announcement shortly follows Hakuho’s similar announcement. As a result, Kisenosato is going to be sole Yokozuna for the first time in his career.

Kakuryu has been complaining for a few weeks now about his old right ankle injury, which caused him to absent himself from the 2017 Nagoya tournament. Until recently, that old injury has been manageable, in the sense that any swelling following extended activity soon settled, and the Yokozuna could function as normally as any veteran rikishi with cumulative damage can.

However, since the middle of the most recent Jungyo, the swelling would just not go away. Although the Yokozuna participated in daily practice with other sekitori, and seems to be able to do high-level sumo, his stablemaster notes that he cannot stomp shiko with force, and that the doctor said that the type of action he is supposed to face in the second half of the basho might be too harsh.

Tachiai wishes Kakuryu good health, and hopes that he takes appropriate steps to heal himself. We also wish Kisenosato much success handling sole Yokozuna duties in the coming basho.


Hakuho to be absent from Kyusho basho

Hakuho trains post-operation

Miyagino oyakata, Hakuho’s stablemaster, announced today that the Yokozuna will be absent from the Kyushu basho due to the condition of his knee.

This announcement should come as no surprise to our readers. On October 12, the Yokozuna left the Jungyo and returned to Tokyo, after it turned out that a bone fragment, a remainder from his injury during the Nagoya basho, is loose in his knee and gives him debilitating pain.

The Yokozuna underwent double endoscopic surgery on October 18th. He had the bone fragment removed from his knee, and at the same time had floating pieces of cartilage removed from his ankle on the same side.

Following that operation and the required rest, the Yokozuna has not had actual training bouts in over a month, and even his basic workouts have been severely limited and far between.

We at Tachiai wish the Yokozuna to return healthy and in good shape in the Hatsu basho.