GRENOBLE, France (AP) — Doctors treating Michael Schumacher refused Monday to predict an outcome for the seven-time Formula One champion, saying they were taking his critical head injury “hour by hour” following a skiing accident.
Chief anesthesiologist Dr. Jean-Francois Payen told reporters that Schumacher was still in a medically induced coma and doctors were focusing only on his current condition.
“We cannot predict the future for Michael Schumacher,” said Payen, who is also in charge of Grenoble University Hospital’s intensive-care unit.
“He is in a critical state in terms of cerebral resuscitation,” he added. “We are working hour by hour.”
Schumacher, the most successful driver in Formula One history, arrived at the Grenoble hospital a day earlier, already in a coma, and immediately underwent brain surgery.
The German driver was skiing with his son Sunday morning in the French Alpine resort of Meribel when he fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock. He was wearing a helmet, but doctors said it was not enough to prevent a serious brain injury. Payen said Schumacher would have died without the helmet.
Gerard Saillant, a trauma surgeon who operated on Schumacher when he broke his leg in a 1999 race crash, was at the hospital as a visitor. He told reporters that Schumacher’s age — he turns 45 on Jan. 3 — and his fitness should work in his favor.
But the Grenoble medical team was cautious about Schumacher’s prognosis.
They lowered his body temperature to between 34 and 35 degrees Celsius (93.2 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit) as part of the medically induced coma, which essentially rests the brain, slowing its metabolism to help reduce inflammation after an injury.
The neurology team at Grenoble University Hospital is recognized as among the best in France and the hospital, in a city that is the gateway to the French Alps, sees a large number of skiing accidents every year.
Schumacher has been seriously hurt before. In addition to the broken leg in a crash at the Silverstone race course, he also suffered serious neck and spine injuries after a motorcycle accident in February 2009 in Spain.
The area where Schumacher was skiing is part of a web of trails that slice down through a vast and, in parts, very steep snowfield. Although challenging, the snowfield is not extreme skiing. The runs are broad and neatly tended, and the ungroomed area in between, known as off-piste — where the resort said Schumacher was found — is free of trees.
The resort said Schumacher was conscious when first responders arrived, although agitated and in shock. But Payen said Monday that after the fall Schumacher was not in a “normal state of consciousness.” He was not responding to questions and his limbs appeared to move involuntarily.
He was airlifted to a local hospital and then later brought to Grenoble. Doctors said that stopover was typical and did not affect his condition.
His wife and other family members were at his bedside.