Austrian skier Grugger has brain operation after crash |

Austrian skier Grugger has brain operation after crash

Eric Willemsen, The Associated Press

KITZBUEHEL, Austria – Austrian skier Hans Grugger underwent brain surgery Thursday after crashing during a training run for the World Cup downhill on the demanding Streif course.

The Austrian ski federation said Thursday that Grugger was having neurosurgery but declined to reveal more detail until after the operation.

Grugger was brought to a hospital by helicopter in nearby Innsbruck with a brain contusion and a chest injury and was “not responsive,” according to federation spokesman Markus Aigner.

Grugger fell after losing balance at the so-called Mausefalle, a long jump shortly after a sharp right turn, and was motionless on the slope.

The hospital medical director Alexandra Kofler told Austrian broadcaster ORF “the patient’s condition can only be judged based on the operation and the time immediately afterward.”

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Grugger was the fifth racer on the course but the first to face troubles in that section.

According to Didier Cuche, who won the downhill race in Kitzbuehel last year, Grugger missed out on the racing line and was not able to adjust.

“The problem is that you have several bumps in the first two turns,” said the Swiss skier, who posted the fastest time when training resumed after a 30-minute delay. “If you can’t keep your direction there, it can cause you real troubles.”

Grugger’s teammate, Michael Walchhofer, said the crash frightened him just before his own run.

“I saw the crash. It was really bad to watch,” the World Cup downhill leader said. “If you see something like that, you start thinking: ‘Should I do this to myself?’ But you have to put that aside.”

Grugger is the third racer in the last four years to get seriously injured after crashing on the Streif course, which is famous for its dangerous bumps, turns and jumps.

In 2008, Scott Macartney of the United States suffered brain injuries and was kept in an induced coma after smashing his head on the icy slop following a crash at the final jump. The next year, Daniel Albrecht of Switzerland suffered life-threatening brain and lung injuries in a similar accident.

Both racers recovered and returned to World Cup ski racing.

The 29-year-old Grugger’s career has been marred by knee injuries, which kept him sidelined several times in the last couple of seasons. He has four career World Cup victories – two in downhill and two in super-G.

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