Doctors: Cannot predict Schumacher's fate

Associated Press
FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 13, 2006 file photo, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher of Germany speeds down a course in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy. Schumacher is in this Italian Alps ski resort for the yearly meeting between Ferrari drivers and the press. French radio says retired Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has been injured in a skiing accident. RMC radio reported Sunday Dec. 29, 2013 that the seven-time champion had fallen while skiing off-piste at the French Alpine resort of Meribel. The radio quoted resort director Christophe Gernigon-Lecomte as saying that Schumacher was wearing a helmet when he fell and hit a rock. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)
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GRENOBLE, France (AP) — Doctors treating Michael Schumacher refused Monday to predict the outcome for the former Formula One driver, saying they were taking his very critical head injury "hour by hour" following his ski accident.

Chief anesthesiologist Jean-Francois Payen told reporters that the seven-time champion is still in a medically induced coma. He said the medical team was focusing only on his current condition.

"We cannot predict the future for Michael Schumacher," Payen said. "It's too soon to talk about."

Schumacher, who is the most successful driver in Formula One history, arrived at the Grenoble University Hospital Center a day earlier already in a coma and immediately underwent brain surgery. Payen said he remains in critical condition, with severe bruising on his brain.

On Sunday morning, the German driver was skiing with his son in the French Alpine resort of Meribel when he fell and hit his head on a rock. He was wearing a helmet at the time, but the doctors said it was clearly not sufficient to prevent a serious brain injury.

"Someone who had suffered this accident without a helmet would not have made it this far," Payen said.

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, is free of trees.

Schumacher was conscious when first responders arrived on the scene, although agitated and in shock, according to the resort. He was first airlifted to a local hospital and then later brought to Grenoble for more extensive treatment.

His wife and other family members are by his bedside. ESPN F1 also reported that Jean Todt, his former Ferrari team boss and now president of motorsport's governing body, the FIA, was at the hospital.

Schumacher has been seriously hurt before. He broke his leg in a crash at Silverstone race course in 1999. He also suffered serious neck and spine injuries after a motorcycling accident in February 2009 in Spain.

As news of the accident spread, Formula One drivers rushed to wish Schumacher a quick recovery.

Sebatian Vettel, who was once referred to as "Baby Schumi," told German news agency dpa: "I am shocked and hope that he will get better as soon as possible."

His former Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, who himself recovered from life-threatening head injuries sustained at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, wrote on Instagram: "I am praying for you my brother!! I hope you have a quick recovery!! God bless you Michael."

British former world champion Jenson Button said posted that his "thoughts are with Michael Schumacher at this tough time. ... Michael more than anyone has the strength to pull through this."

During his career, Schumacher had seven drivers' championships and 91 race wins. After initial success with the Benetton team, Schumacher moved to Ferrari and helped turn the Italian team into the sport's dominant force. After initially retiring in 2006, he made a comeback in 2010 and raced for three years with Mercedes.

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DiLorenzo reported from Paris. Lori Hinnant in Paris and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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