Formula One legend Michael Schumacher showing 'slight improvement,' doctors say

Dec 31, 2013 11:51 AM

By Jason Cumming, Staff Writer, NBC News

Doctors treating Michael Schumacher said Tuesday that new scans showed "slight improvement" in the Formula One icon's condition after he underwent a second operation to relieve pressure on his brain.

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"We can't say he is out of danger but ... we have gained a bit of time," Dr. Jean-Francois Payen, the doctor in charge of Grenoble University Hospital's intensive care unit, told a press conference. "The coming hours are crucial."

The seven-time Formula One world champion suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident in the French Alps resort of Meribel on Sunday. Initial findings indicated the blow was so hard that Schumacher's helmet shattered.

The crash left Schumacher, 44, with internal bleeding and injuries including contusions and lesions.

Emmanuel Gay, head of the hospital's neurosurgery service, said the latest operation involved removing a large hematoma - the medical term for a build-up of blood - from the left-hand side of Schumacher's brain.

Doctors offered no predictions Tuesday on whether or when they would bring the German out of an induced coma, intended to relieve swelling.

"We cannot tell you any more on the future," said Gerard Saillant, a surgeon and friend of the family.

Schumacher is the most successful Formula One driver of all time with a record 91 race victories in a career spanning more than two decades. He retired last year.

Schumi, as his fans affectionately call him, was famously aggressive on the track and no less intense off-hours. In retirement, he remained an avid skier, skydiver and horseback rider.

Schumacher's manager, Sabine Kehm, confirmed that his helmet cracked on impact.

"It looks like probably that initiating a corner, he was hitting a stone which he had not seen and was catapulted down on a rock," Kehm said. "That is extremely and very unfortunate ... really very, very bad luck. Michael was not at high speed."

Citing Kehm, Germany's Bild tabloid also reported Tuesday that a journalist tried to gain access to Schumacher's hospital room by dressing up as a priest.

NBC News' Carlo Angerer, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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