By Tom Keppeler, Knee1 Staff
Hawaiian-born Chad Rowan, better known as Akebono, the world's first non-Japanese sumo champion, announced this week his intentions to retire from the game.
The 510-pound sumo attained the game's highest honor—and caused great controversy—when he became the first non-Japanese to attain the rank of grand champion, or "yokozuna." The tradition-laden sport had been held—and well-protected—by the Japanese prior to the foreigner's win. After holding the title for 48 tournaments, however, Akebono decided to retire from the sport.
The news comes at the end of last week's Grand Sumo Tournament that Akebono sat out of with a knee injury. The 31-year-old's announcement caps a brave and successful career as a sumo. The game, in which two large wrestlers try to force each other out of an elevated clay ring, had always excluded larger and stronger foreigners. Akebono worked his way into the ranks of the best, however, by becoming naturalized as a Japanese citizen before his promotion to yokozuna in 1993.
Akebono left the sport because of chronic knee problems, which highlights the role of weight on the knees. At 6-foot-9, 510 pounds, the sumo's knees are at high risk of injury. Articular cartilage, which surrounds and cushions every joint, wears out quickly in overweight people. In addition, menisci, the half-moon-shaped discs of cartilage that protect the top of the shinbone, bear between three and four times a person's body weight. In a person as large as Akebono, the meniscus may bear as much as one ton.
Losing weight now can drastically reduce the risk of chronic injury to your knee. By staying active and doing low-impact exercises—and avoiding sumo wrestling—you may be able to keep your knees in good, healthy condition.
Image courtesy of Akebono.Stanford.Edu, the original home of Yahoo!