BERLIN // Michael Schumacher underwent a second surgery after a brain scan showed small, “surprising” signs of improvement, but doctors said yesterday they could offer no insight into the prognosis for the seven-time Formula One champion.
Schumacher, who turns 45 on Friday, suffered critical head injuries when he fell and struck a rock on morning Sunday while skiing on a family holiday in the French Alps.
His manager confirmed that the accident cracked his helmet, which doctors credited for giving him a chance at survival.
Schumacher’s condition stabilised somewhat after the second surgery, but he remains in a medically induced coma – and doctors gave no prediction on how long that would last.
“We cannot tell you any more about the future,” said Gerard Saillant, a surgeon and friend of the family who is in Grenoble, where the former driver is hospitalised. Saillant said it would be “stupid” to make any predictions about Schumacher’s recovery.
Schumacher and his 14-year-old son, Mick, were skiing in the French Alpine resort of Meribel, where the family has a chalet, when he fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock.
He was taken first to a local hospital, then to Grenoble University Hospital, which is recognised as having one of France’s best neurology teams.
Dr Emmanuel Gay, the hospital’s chief neurosurgeon, said a scan performed late Monday showed bruising “a little bit everywhere” in Schumacher’s brain – but also an unexpected easing of pressure.
“The brain scan was, I must say, surprising,” he said.
But he and other doctors cautioned that Schumacher’s condition was still grave after the successful two-hour surgery to eliminate the largest and most accessible bruise, on the left side of his brain.
“We cannot say he is out of danger,” said Dr Jean-Francois Payen, head of the hospital’s intensive-care unit. Payen said any neurological evaluation was “out of the question” for now.
Schumacher’s manager, Sabine Kehm, yesterday told journalists at the hospital that Schumacher was not skiing at high speed when he suffered the accident.
Several reports suggested he was skiing as fast as 60 to 100 kilometres an hour.
“He seems to have hit a rock as he took a turn,” she told Germany’s Bild newspaper. “It was a chain of unfortunate circumstances,” adding that the accident could have happened even “at 10 kilometres per hour”.
Kehm said Schumacher was only gathering speed at the time, having apparently just helped a companion to his feet after a fall.
“Michael was skiing on a normal piste with the group,” Kehm was quoted saying. “Nearby was an area of deep snow. Michael skied into it. He wasn’t going fast because he had apparently just helped a friend who had fallen down.
“So Michael just got going again, skied into the deep snow and then – we suspect – hit the rock as he entered a curve.
“Michael was not going very fast. But unfortunately as he took the turn, we assume, he hit the rock and was catapulted upwards and then struck a rock head-first.”* Agencies