Formula One champion Michael Schumacher would not have survived had he not been wearing a ski helmet, a skiing accident medic has said.
Doctors said he remained in a critical condition after undergoing surgery for a severe head injury he sustained while skiing off- piste on Sunday in the resort of Meribel in France.
The 44-year-old German and seven-times Formula One champion is now in an induced coma in intensive care. Medics, speaking at a news conference yesterday, said that the injury was “particularly serious” and refused to speculate on Schumacher’s prognosis.
However, they added that he would “certainly not” have survived had it not been for his helmet.
Jean François Payen, head of anaesthetics at the clinic where Schumacher is being treated, said there were no plans to carry out a second operation.
“This accident was particularly serious and he was dealt with immediately and at our hospital he was immediately operated on after a brain scan,” said Prof Payen. “And then afterwards his condition is critical. As for cerebral care, all the recommended treatments have been introduced and for the moment we are not able to express ourselves with regards to Michael Schumacher’s future.”
He said the driver’s helmet had protected him to a “certain extent” from the “very violent shock”.
“Somebody who would have this kind of accident without a helmet certainly, he would not have got to here,” said Prof Payen.
The neurosurgeon who operated on Schumacher, Stephan Chabardes, said he had been admitted suffering from intracranial aematoma — blood clots — bruising and swelling of the brain.
“We operated urgently to try to eliminate the haematoma,” he said.
“After the operation we saw that we had been able to eliminate these haematoma but also sadly the appearance of various bilateral lesions. So therefore he was taken to intensive care to try to help.”
The hospital said Schumacher was being kept in a state of hypothermia by controlling his temperature to keep it at 34C to 35C. He is also under general anaesthetic.
“Currently our objective is to reduce as much as possible any kind of external stimuli and to try to ensure he gets oxygen to his brain,” a spokesman said.
“He arrived with lesions that were quite important so we think that, in fact, the shock seems to have taken place at high speed. Hour by hour, we are going to try to gain time. But the treatment we are going to introduce, we know what we’re hoping for but currently we are not able to give you any more information.
“We’re not able to tell you what’s going to happen as far as the future is concerned because it’s too early to talk about it.”
Schumacher has received an outpouring of support from the racing world, including from British Formula One former world champion Jenson Button, who wrote on Twitter: “My thoughts are with Michael Schumacher at this tough time. Michael, more than anyone, has the strength to pull through this.”
The star’s manager, Sabine Kehm, issued a statement on behalf of Schumacher’s family: “We would like to thank the medical team who we know do everything possible to help Michael,” it said. “We like to also thank the people from all around the world who have expressed their sympathy and sent their best wishes for Michael’s recovery. We would like to ask the media to respect the privacy of us and our friends and thank them for their support.”
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