Mayer out for season but 'it could have been worse'

ALTA BADIA, Italy (AP) Olympic champion Matthias Mayer will miss the rest of the season after crashing in a World Cup downhill, although he says it could have been ''much worse.''

The Austrian team said Sunday that Mayer's injuries were worse than originally thought and that he broke two vertebrae in Saturday's crash in Val Gardena.

After being brought to a hospital in Innsbruck, Mayer was operated on and had four vertebrae bolted together to aid the healing process. He'll be hospitalized for at least 10 days.

Still, the impact could have been worse if Mayer's landing had not been softened by a protective air bag vest he was wearing under his race suit.

In a team statement, Mayer says, ''It could have been much worse because everything is (healing) back together.''

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