Updated: Tuesday, 31 December 2013 18:13 | By Agence France-Presse

Schumacher 'slightly improved' after second operation

Michael Schumacher has undergone a second operation and his condition has improved slightly following his horrific skiing accident, doctors said at a news conference in Grenoble on Tuesday.


Schumacher 'slightly improved' after second operation

Formula one World champion Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher passes a gate during a giant slalom race in Madonna di Campiglio 17 January 2003. Schumacher and his teammate Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello are in Madonna di Campiglio for traditional meetings with journalists in this Italian northern mountain resort. AFP PHOTO VINCENZO PINTO

The Formula One legend Michael Schumacher remains in a coma with his family at his bedside after sustaining serious head injuries in Sunday's accident at Meribel in the French Alps.

Medics have warned it is touch-and-go for the German, the greatest champion in the history of Formula One, as they wait for the full extent of his injuries to become clear after he fell and slammed his head on a rock while skiing off-piste on Sunday.

Schumacher's wife Corinne and children Gina Maria and Mick were by his side and a small crowd held a night vigil outside the an AFP reporter said. 

A source close to the investigation into the off-piste accident at the posh ski resort of Meribel told AFP that Schumacher's helmet was smashed "in two" by the impact.

The German newspaper Bild also quoted a rescuer as saying the split helmet was "full of blood".

Schumacher's family in a statement expressed their thanks to the doctors who they said were doing "everything possible to help Michael" and to well-wishers around the world.

The family also asked the press to "respect their privacy," in the statement put out by Schumacher's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm.

News of the accident stunned the world and racing stars joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel and legions of fans in expressing their hopes for his recovery.

Doctors have said that Schumacher, who is due to turn 45 on January 3, has age and physical fitness on his side but stressed it was too early to say if he would pull through.

He has been put in a medically induced coma to spur recovery. The coma reduces the patient's temperature to around 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) to reduce swelling. 

By being unconscious, the brain is also switched off to sounds, light and other triggers that cause the organ to use up oxygen as it processes the stimuli. 

'We are working hour by hour'

"He is in critical condition, his condition can be described as life threatening," Jean-Francois Payen, head of the intensive care unit, told reporters.

"We are working hour by hour," he said.

News of the accident made waves, stunning fans, racing stars and leaders across the world.

Damon Hill, who fought several memorable on-track battles with Schumacher, said he was "praying" for his former rival.

Merkel was "extremely shocked" by the incident, her spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

Formula One quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, 26, who has said Schumacher was his childhood idol, said: "I am shocked and I hope that he'll be feeling better as soon as possible. 

Schumacher, who won the last of his world titles in 2004, towered over the sport since his debut in 1991, winning more Formula One world titles and races than any other. He had a record 91 wins and is one of only two men to reach 300 grands prix.

His duels in his heyday with Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, fired by an unquenchable competitive spirit, have gone down in Formula One lore.

Schumacher was born in January 1969 near Cologne, Germany, the son of a bricklayer who also ran the local go-kart track, where his mother worked in the canteen. 

By 1987, Schumacher was the German and European go-kart champion and was soon racing professionally. In 1991 he burst into Formula One by qualifying seventh in his debut race in Belgium and a year later, he won his first Formula One grand prix.

He joined Ferrari in 1996 and went from strength to strength over the next decade, dominating the podium, before retiring aged 37.

But the father of two could not resist the lure of the track and in 2010 he came out of retirement, signing a deal with Mercedes before quitting for good in 2012.

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