Schumacher's skiing accident a 'rare event' in high-risk sport

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GRENOBLE, France (CNN) — Michael Schumacher's serious skiing accident in the French Alps on has once again put the spotlight on skiing safety.

The seven-time Formula One world champion remains in a critical condition after hitting his head on a rock at the Meribel resort in France on Sunday.

But according to Dr Mike Langran, a Scottish doctor who specializes in ski safety, serious accidents like the one endured by the former F1 world champion are uncommon.

"Accidents of this nature are, thankfully, rare events amongst skiers and snowboarders, although of course they usually receive substantial media attention," Langran said in a statement on Monday.

Langran, who was interviewed by CNN about skiing safety last January, said that he was "deeply saddened and concerned" on hearing of Schumacher's accident and wished him a "speedy and complete recovery," but stressed that risk of injury from snow sports remain low.

"As with any recreational activity however, it is impossible to completely remove all elements of risk when participating in snow sports," Langran said.

"The absolute risk of an injury whilst skiing or snowboarding recreationally remains very low, in the order of 2-4 injuries per 1000 days spent on the slopes.

"The vast majority of people will ski or board all their lives without ever sustaining a significant injury."


Commenting in January on skiing injuries and fatalities, Langran insisted that winter sports have had a bad press when it comes to perceptions about safety.

"For snow sports, the average injury rate is 2-3 per 1000 participants on any one day. Compare that to an average game of soccer or rugby where perhaps the same number, or more are injured out of a much smaller number of players," he told CNN.

Langran added that in the U.S. over the past ten years, on average, about 41.5 people had died per year from skiing or snowboarding.

"The rate of fatality converts to 0.78 per million skier/snowboarder visits. Although it's not directly comparable, in the United States in 2009, 2,400 people drowned while swimming in public areas and 800 died while bicycle riding," Langran said.

Schumacher is currently being treated for his injuries at the University Hospital Center of Grenoble.

At a news conference on Monday, doctors said it was too early to say what the former F1 driver's prognosis might be.

Schumacher was in a coma when he arrived at the hospital and required immediate brain surgery, officials said. The German has undergone one operation and is being kept in an induced coma, officials added.

The seven-time Formula One world champion was reportedly wearing a helmet when he fell.

"I always recommend skiers and snowboarders to wear an appropriate helmet," said Langran.

"Whilst they can never provide complete protection in all accident situations, I have no doubt that his use of a helmet will have substantially attenuated the injuries sustained."

The FIS (the International Ski Federation) has recommended the use of helmets on the slopes since 2006, but their use remains voluntary.

Some travel insurance companies, however, now insist they are worn otherwise claims by injured skiers could be invalidated.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


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