Leading neurologists have warned that seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is unlikely to make a full recovery from the severe head injuries he suffered in a skiing accident almost two months ago.
The 91-time Grand Prix winner fell while skiing in the French Alps on December 29 and doctors operated on the German to remove blood clots after he hit his head on a rock, destroying his helmet. Schumacher was then placed in an artificial coma to help reduce swelling on his brain.
“Michael is still in the wake-up phase,” Schumacher’s agent Sabine Kehm said in an email Friday, according to CBS News.
“This phase can be long,” Kehm added.
In order to protect his privacy, Schumacher’s family has released few details.
“It does not bode well,” said Dr. Tipu Aziz, a professor of neurosurgery at Oxford University who is not associated with Schumacher’s medical team. “The fact that he hasn’t woken up implies that the injury has been extremely severe and that a full recovery is improbable.”
People who have experienced major head injuries are sometimes placed in a drug-induced coma so that the brain can have a chance to heal. Comas reduce the need for blood flow and can help reduce swelling.
According to Aziz, doctors usually try every few days to bring someone out of a coma.
Doctors other than Aziz have said it is too early to make an accurate prognosis.
“About 90 percent of the recovery is made within nine to 12 months, so this is still early days,” said Dr. Anthony Strong, an emeritus chair in neurosurgery at King’s College London. “The longer someone is in a coma, the worse their recovery tends to be.”
Since it has been several weeks since the incident, doctors may have a better idea of how the rest of Schumacher’s brain is doing. Parts of Schumacher’s brain not directly affected by the accident may now be starting to show worrisome signs that might not have been visible before.
According to Dr. Colin Shieff, neurosurgeon at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, if Schumacher does come out of the coma, he would likely face significant disabilities due to the length of time he has been comatose.
There have been rare cases of people emerging from comas months and years later having the ability to communicate, but Shieff was skeptical that that would occur with Schumacher. He said instances where those in a coma made a surprising recovery had mostly suffered things like stroke, poisoning or failed resuscitation attempts.