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Culture

Schumacher's Surprise Injuries Land Him in Pit Stop

Doctors have ordered German racing star Ralf Schumacher off the racetrack for 12 weeks after discovering broken vertebrae following his spectacular crash 10 days ago in Indianapolis.

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Schumacher said he's lucky to have survived the Indianapolis crash

Wednesday was Ralf Schumacher's 29th birthday, but the Williams driver had little to celebrate. Ten days after his car spun out at 330 kph (198 mph) and hit the wall backward at the U.S. Grand Prix, Ralf, the younger brother of Ferrari world champion Michael Schumacher, discovered that he has two spinal fractures.

The extent of his injuries didn't become known until Schumacher underwent a six-hour long examination by doctors in the western German spa town of Bad Nauheim. A scandal, according to Germany's Bild Zeitung, which reported that the oversight by U.S. doctors could have caused Schumacher to become paralyzed.

Formel 1: Indianapolis: Unfall Ralf Schumacher

Ralf Schumacher after his accident at the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis. U.S. doctors overlooked the extent of Schumacher's injuries.

"I was shocked," Schumacher said in an interview with Bild. "I was examined from head to foot in Indianapolis. I don't know what the doctors there were doing. This will have consequences."

Schumacher's German doctors have ordered him to rest for up to three months while his injuries heal. That could mean that Schumacher will miss the rest of the Formula One season, which ends in Sao Paulo on Oct. 24.

Getting back on the track

Formula One legend Niki Lauda, who survived one of the most horrific crashes in the sport's history, told Bild that the longer it takes Schumacher to get back into the cockpit, the harder it will be for him to overcome the fear of racing again.

But Schumacher said that he wants his body to be strong enough to be able to endure another such crash before he races again, adding that no matter how long it takes, fear won't stop his return to the sport. "I narrowly escaped a huge catastrophe," Schumacher told the paper. "The doctors have told me how lucky I am. If I were afraid, I'd quit Formula One immediately, I've earned enough."

Ralf Schumacher

Ralf Schumacher in better days.

Despite speculation that the accident could spell the end of Ralf Schumacher's career, his doctor has delivered a positive prognosis. "After eight to 12 weeks, fractures like that -- which aren't uncommon -- will heal well," Johannes M. Peil said.

Replacement ordered

For this weekend's French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, Williams have confirmed that Schumacher will be replaced by Spaniard Marc Gene, the team's official reserve driver.

Team chief Frank Williams said in a statement: "I wish Ralf well for a full recovery and I hope to see him back racing before the end of the season. In the meantime we are fortunate to have a driver of Marc's calibre to fill the void."

It's not the first time Gene has stepped in for Schumacher. Last year, Schumi II, as he's known in Germany, missed September's Italian Grand Prix after suffering a concussion from a crash during testing. Gene finished in fifth place.

"It's a shame that opportunities only come along when one of my colleagues has endured some kind of misadventure, but it is my job to make the best of such circumstances and ensure the team is not compromised by Ralf's absence," Gene said.

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