Michael Schumacher skiing crash: did helmet camera cause head injuries?

By Alexandra Williams, Geneva1
2:01AM GMT 16 Feb 2014

Source: Telegraph

It was seven weeks ago that Schumacher suffered his life-threatening accident while skiing with his son in the French resort Photo: EPA

It was seven weeks ago that Schumacher suffered his life-threatening accident while skiing with his son in the French resort Photo: EPA

Almost two months after a skiing accident caused him to be put into a medically-induced coma, Michael Schumacher‘s friends are still at a loss to explain the life-changing consequences of the seemingly-innocuous accident.

Schumacher, an experienced skier, was travelling at a moderate speed when he fell and hit a rock. His skis were new; his bindings have been subsequently tested and were not at fault; he was fully in control of his movements as he left the marked pistes and traversed the patch of snow in-between two groomed runs in Meribel.

But now investigators believe that they may have found a reason for the seriousness of the crash. They think that his helmet camera could have actually worsened the blown, and caused the helmet to shatter into pieces.

Experts from ENSA, the world-renowned ski and climbing academy in the French ski resort of Chamonix, have conducted tests to determine whether the presence of a solid object between a helmet colliding with a rock would weaken the structure.

The helmet smashed – but the camera he had attached to it, in order to record him and his son skiing, was undamaged. The footage, audio and visual, has provided police with crucial information about the crash.

“The helmet completely broke. It was in at least two parts. ENSA analysed the piece of the helmet to check the material, and all was OK,” said a source close to the investigation.

“But why did it explode on impact? Here the camera comes into question. The laboratory has been testing to see if the camera weakened the structure.”

Patrick Quincy, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the accident, will make an announcement on Monday. He is expected to clear the ski resort of any involvement and conclude that the manufacturers of Schumacher’s ski equipment were not liable.

It was seven weeks ago that Schumacher suffered his life-threatening accident while skiing with his son in the French resort, where he owns a chalet. He remains in intensive care as doctors try to ease him out of an artificially-induced coma.

An investigation into the crash, conducted by mountain police in Bourg-Saint-Maurice and gendarmes in Meribel and Albertville, was launched the following day – as is usual in France for accidents of such gravity.

Schumacher had been skiing on the piste with his son and family friends.

But shortly after 11am he “deliberately” skied on to a patch of off-piste located in between two runs “with a number of dangers, notably rocks”, according to investigators. It was here, no more than 20 feet from the piste, that he struck a partially-covered rock and then catapulted on to another, crashing his head with such force that his helmet split in two.

Lawyers had argued that managers of the ski resort might face up to three years in prison because the dangers lurking within the off-piste section were not properly marked.

The resort in response hired a top lawyer, Maurice Bodecher, who is a specialist in ski and criminal law and was until 2010 the head lawyer for the French Ski Federation

But, presenting initial findings 10 days into the investigation, police chief Stephane Bozon said: “The piste markers conformed to the regulations. Unfortunately this off-piste area had a number of dangers, notably the rocks being only barely visible, covered with five to 10cm of snow because of the poor snow.”

Mr Quincy, a former policeman who has been the prosecutor at Albertville since 2009, added that all safety procedures by mountain authorities “had been respected”.

Meanwhile, the seven-time world champion is receiving round-the-clock care in Grenoble University Hospital.

His wife Corinna, 44, with whom the champion has two children Gina Marie, 16, and Mick, 14, has remained at his bedside.

But they have said that he was “still in a waking-up process,” and that only time will tell whether he makes a full recovery.

They said the most important element of his recovery was not the speed but that it progressed in a “continuous and controlled way”.

“Michael’s family would like to again express their sincere thanks for the continuous sympathy coming from all over the world,” they said in a statement. “The good wishes they receive help the family and we are convinced they also help Michael, who still is in a waking up process.

“As often in such situation, no day is like the next. The family is thankful for ones understanding that they would not wish to disclose medical details in order to protect Michael’s privacy.”

Schumacher receives food through a tube to his stomach, and oxygen via a hose from a machine next to his bed, as he still cannot breathe independently.

Three times a day his joints and muscles are massaged to prevent atrophy and bed sores.

The coma suppressed his swallowing reflex, pain perception and his respiratory drive. He has to be acutely monitored around the clock during this wake-up phase to see if such things are returning naturally – if at all.

His blood is also thinned to prevent thrombosis and he is regularly turned and even stood straight up at times to keep blood flowing.

He lies on a special air-filled mattress to prevent pressure sores and his urinary tract is under constant vigilance because of the danger of waste bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing another potentially fatal infection.

His family added that they “strongly believe” he will recover.


The Narrative clip is a lightweight wearable camera, capable of shooting 5-megapixel images. You clip it to your lapel and it shoots two photos a minute. Jim Tuttle/NPR

The Narrative clip is a lightweight wearable camera, capable of shooting 5-megapixel images. You clip it to your lapel and it shoots two photos a minute.
Jim Tuttle/NPR

There are alternatives to the standard helmet camera that might be considered before you purchase one. One of the ones that I think makes the most sense is worn on the clothing of the rider or walker. You can read more about it here. The idea behind this particular camera is to capture snapshots of your daily life. It is light weight to wear on clothing while indoors and has a profile that is about the size, shape and weight of a large lapel pin.

Keep in mind that using a camera on a bike is not something to be taken casually. It should be removed while the bike is stored or locked at work and will need to be weatherproof in any case while used in transit. Then there is the processing of the images after your journey.

Larger cameras are more capable but do not necessarily provide better results if all you wish to do is document the license plate number of the car that hit you from behind.

Speculations On The ChainLink

They begin as follows:

Reply by Reboot Oxnard yesterday

Fun but perhaps dangerous. Mounting mirrors, light and now cameras to helmets may seem like a good idea but they can cause a number of problems that make crashes more severe – or even cause crashes. Be safe out there and carefully consider the unintended (and potentially dangerous) consequences of changes to your gear before you make them.

Then followed by this rather curious bit of nonsense:

Reply by h’ 1.0 yesterday

Painful article.  Glaring omission of one key piece of info— was the helmet drilled into or otherwise modified to “weaken” it?

Curved and Flat Adhesive Mounts

Curved and Flat Adhesive Mounts

I suppose the question can be forgiven if you know little to nothing about how cameras like the GoPro are mounted to any helmet. They are never mounted drilling since there are essentially two convenient methods of attaching a base to which the camera can be mounted:


Camera inserted in Frame which is then attached to base.

Double-sided adhesive patches are generally provided in the “kit” with which the camera is sold. As you can see from the caption to the right these come either as flat or curved to suit the kind of helmet you are wearing or the location on that helmet. These can be removed and then relocated after a season of use.


Headstrap with QuickClip

The camera is used either in a fully waterproof case or one with what are known as “skeleton” cases (which has large breathing holes on their backside) or as in this case (see picture) a frame which is then attached to a low-standing mount. The mount then slides into the adhesive mount shown above.

Chesty Harness

Chesty Harness

If you are traveling without a helmet (or have one with a rough surface) then the helmet strap with QuickClip could work. And if you are intending to avoid having things on your helmet altogether then I rely on the Chesty:

And If None of These Works

gopro-video-cyclingThere is a specially modified helmet suitable for skiing or snowboarding which has a special modification for a GoPro mount that secures without the need for the adhesive mounts.

This particular helmet is made by Giro and mine is in a very bright orange color.

How Not To Wear Your GoPro

How Not To Mount A GoPro!

How Not To Mount A GoPro!

There are some caveats to mounting a helmet camera and one of these is to avoid the longer extensions. What Reboot Oxnard may be referring to as “dangerous” is a mount like this.

If the camera is atop your helmet increasing the distance further than the shortest mounts provided really adds nothing to the camera position of consequence. The big change however is that upon impact with the ground (should you fall or slip or are struck) if the camera is struck you risk having your neck wrenched either backwards or twisted. In fact placing the taller mount on the helmet increases your risk of these two situations.

Always use the shortest possible mount when placing your camera on your helmet!

One More Consideration

Strap mounting

Strap mounting

You can also use a mount like the one pictured at right. It has a base plate for the camera mount that is “secured” via nylon straps. It is quick to put on and very quick to remove. But it does provide a bit more resistance in a tumble, so keep that in mind.

Again, this does not require (as do any of the other mounting options) destroying the integrity of the helmet. But again wearing anything in any configuration on your head is potentially a cause of concern for your body in the event of a fall or collision. So keep that in mind.

A good lawyer will sniff out this problem and possibly use it to his advantage when trying to make the case that the neck injury you suffered was your fault (or at least that of the camera mount maker) when it comes time for settlement.

Final Word

I know that this is probably not worth mentioning if you are a ChainLinker but frankly the “helmet cam” idea is troublesome for me. My first preference would be to have something mounted under my saddle, not on my head. Period!

But on the other hand you have to decide whether you expect to get struck from the front or rear and act accordingly. If you do expect a frontal assault, then consider the Chesty mount. I like it better than a handlebar mount because there is less vibration and when you leave the bike, there is virtually “zero chance” of you mistakenly leaving it behind. You can in fact wear the camera on our back using the Chesty mount, so would work for frontal or rear assaults.