Japan Confronts Hazards of Judo

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Four Japanese students die per year, on average, from catastrophic injuries suffered doing judo under school supervision:

Over the past 30 years, 118 have died, and nearly 300 have ended up disabled or comatose.

The statistics have no parallel in other developed nations where the sport is popular. Officials at judo federations in both the United States and France said that while concussions had been common, there had been no known reports of deaths or traumatic brain injuries for young practitioners in recent decades.


Dr. Robert Nishime, chairman of sports medicine for USA Judo, the sport’s federation, is a Japanese-American who has spoken to victims’ families. He said that the Japanese cultural trait of not giving up, called gaman, might explain why a concussion, which can be subtle, could be played down by the instructor or the child. The danger is that another head trauma soon after the initial injury can cause “second impact syndrome,” which can be devastating.

So, the Japanese art (or way) of judo is uniquely dangerous in Japan.

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