Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher is in a critical condition in a French hospital with a brain haemorrhage after a skiing accident.
The 44-year-old German was “suffering a serious brain trauma with coma on his arrival, which required an immediate neurosurgical operation,” the hospital in the southeast French city of Grenoble said in a statement.
“He remains in a critical condition.”
The hospital statement was signed by the facility’s neurosurgeon, the professor in charge of its anaesthesia/revival unit, and the hospital’s deputy director. It was issued jointly with the ex-racer’s press team in Germany.
Schumacher had been skiing off-piste in the upmarket Meribel resort when he fell and hit his head on a rock, mountain police who gave him first aid said.
Schumacher, who lives with his family in Switzerland, was on a private stay in Meribel, according to his spokeswoman.
Meribel is part of an extensive ski region with about 180 lifts connecting three alpine valleys.
Schumacher was reportedly skiing with his 14-year-old son at the time of the accident.
He was airlifted to a local hospital, then to the Grenoble facility. A specialist neurosurgeon from Paris was rushed in to oversee his treatment.
As the most successful driver in Formula 1 history, Michael Schumacher amassed seven World Championships and 91 race wins in 307 starts for Jordan, Benetton, Mercedes and most famously Ferrari.
The director of the Meribel resort, Christophe Gernigon-Lecomte, had said just after the accident that Schumacher had been wearing a helmet and was “conscious but a little agitated” just after the accident, with early reports suggesting there was no cause for alarm.
But when Schumacher then fell into coma, doctors realised the damage was worse than initially feared.
The two mountain police officers who gave first aid said Schumacher was suffering “severe cranial trauma” when they got to him and a helicopter was brought in to evacuate him within 10 minutes.
A renowned Paris surgeon, Dr Gerard Saillant – who also operated on Schumacher when he broke his calf and shinbone during his most serious racing crash at the 1999 British Grand Prix – was brought to the Grenoble hospital in a police car to take charge of the famous patient.
A hospital spokesman said the next update on Schumacher’s condition would be given at 10am GMT.
Police officers have been stationed to guard the hospital’s entrances.
Dr Gary Hartstein, former Medical Delegate for the Formula 1 World Championship, took to Twitter to attempt to explain the medical situation Schumacher finds himself in.
“It’s quite well known that extradural hematomas, a kind of cerebral hemorrhage, can leave a lucid interval after injury,” he wrote, referring to reports that Schumacher was conscious when he was attended to after the accident.
“Then as the hematoma forms, the sudden increase in pressure causes sudden and dramatic symptoms. Pressure must be relieved rapidly.
“This is done with a neurosurgical intervention. Then the victim is observed in an ICU environment.
“Quality of recovery depends on: 1) severity of initial injury, 2) acuteness and amplitude of pressure rise when hematoma forms, 3) rapidity with which it is drained, 4) quality of neuro intensive care and rehab.”
Dr Hartstein said that the long wait for the next update on Schumacher’s condition is no surprise.
“Gives docs a chance to do rounds, see new CT scans, check blood results. That is perfectly fine.
“What we want to hear is: 1) off or starting to come off the respirator. 2) intracranial pressure staying normal. If we hear this, we’re ok.
“And obviously anything better is, well, better.”
Schumacher retired from Formula 1 for a second time at the end of the 2012 season. He won two world titles with Benetton and five in a row with Ferrari.