Formula One Legend in Serious Skiing Accident

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SAM Magazine—Grenoble, France, Dec, 30, 2013—Seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher is in critical condition in a French hospital with head injuries suffered on Sunday morning while skiing off-piste at Meribel. Update: His condition is slightly improved following a second operation on Monday night that relieved pressure on his brain, but he remains in a coma.

Authorities have credited a helmet for preventing immediate death, but his prognosis is unknown.

Schumacher, 44, was skiing in unmarked, advanced terrain above treeline when he fell heavily, hitting his head on a rock and splitting his helmet, while skiing with a group of friends and his 14-year-old son. The accident occurred at about 11 a.m. in sunny weather as the group was approaching a groomed run. Few other details of the accident have been reported.

It’s likely Schumacher was familiar with the terrain, as he owns a chalet in Meribel. However, the area had received about 8 inches of new snow, and early-season snow cover is still spotty; it's not known if either of these conditions contributed to the accident. An investigation is ongoing.

Schumacher benefited from almost immediate treatment. A member of the group alerted mountain rescue, located a few hundred yards below the accident, and help was on the scene in a few minutes. Schumacher, who was conscious immediately after the accident, was initially helicoptered to a nearby hospital. He had lapsed into a coma, and as his neurological condition deteriorated, he was flown a second time to a trauma center at the University Hospital in Grenoble, where doctors operated to relieve pressure on the brain. They reported swelling, hematoma, and numerous lesions to both sides of the brain.

Schumacher is being kept in a coma at a slightly lowered body temperature to facilitate his recovery. "We cannot tell you what the outcome will be yet," the team treating him told a news conference on Monday morning.

Support has poured in from the world of Formula 1 racing, and the accident has received enormous press across Europe and on the Internet.