Death of Chinese badminton player calls for rule revision

The unexpected death of 17-year-old Chinese badminton prodigy Zhang Zhijie has drawn significant attention and concern. The Badminton World Federation announced yesterday that it will

conduct a comprehensive investigation into the incident and determine whether changes to medical protocols are necessary upon completion of the review.

On Wednesday, Zhang's sister took to Weibo to repost the BWF's announcement and vowed to seek accountability. "Please be responsible for a life, for Chinese citizens competing abroad, and for the national youth team athletes. Give our family an explanation," she urged.

Photo provided by the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) shows Chinese team member holds a badminton jersey of Zhang Zhijie during the award ceremony of mixed team of 2024 Badminton Asia Junior Championships in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, July 2, 2024. Zhang Zhijie, a 17-year-old Chinese badminton player, passed away after collapsing on court during a group stage match at Badminton Asia Junior Championship on June 30, 2024. (PBSI/Handout via Xinhua)

Zhang collapsed during a group stage match against a Japanese player on Sunday at the Asia Junior Championships in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and passed away after being sent to the hospital.

Zhang's sudden death has prompted condolences from fans, badminton associations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and event organizers. Meanwhile, discussions on the timeliness and effectiveness of on-site emergency response have sparked significant debate online.

During a Tuesday news conference, Broto Happy, spokesperson for the Badminton Association of Indonesia, informed reporters that medical personnel noted Zhang's declining consciousness and breathing difficulties and they swiftly transported him to Yogyakarta Air Force Central Hospital, located 4.7 kilometers from the venue, chosen for its adherence to the Badminton Asia Confederation's hospital distance and facility standards, as reported by Xinhua.

Happy said that Zhang was taken to two hospitals, both of which concluded that he experienced sudden cardiac arrest.

Happy also highlighted that, under current BWF standard operating procedures, medical personnel must obtain permission from the referee before entering the court. The Indonesian Badminton Association has submitted a formal request to the BWF, urging a revision of this rule.

"In emergencies, medical personnel need to access the court more quickly than they did in this incident. For the safety of the athletes, perhaps this rule should be abolished," he said.

According to BWF medical guidelines, the tournament doctor, under the referee's guidance, is responsible for handling on-court emergencies, including suspected cardiac arrest and providing immediate intervention until appropriate medical services, such as an ambulance arrival.

On Tuesday, BWF announced on its official Weibo account that they are awaiting formal reports from the Badminton Asia Confederation and the local organizing committee to evaluate whether proper medical procedures were followed when Zhang Zhijie collapsed on the court.

Following the review, the BWF will determine if specific modifications to these medical guidelines are necessary.

In the mixed team final at the Asia Junior Championships on Tuesday, the Chinese team triumphed over South Korea with a 3-1 victory, reclaiming the title after a six-year gap.

To commemorate the deceased teammate, a seat reserved for Zhang adorned with his jersey remained in the Chinese team's cheering section throughout the final match. During the awards ceremony, the team also held Zhang's jersey while ascending the podium.