Formula One great Michael Schumacher is no longer in a coma and has left a French hospital where he had been receiving treatment since a skiing accident in December, his manager said Monday.
Schumacher left the hospital in Grenoble “to continue his long phase of rehabilitation,” manager Sabine Kehm said in a statement. She gave no further details on Schumacher’s condition, and her office refused to elaborate on the statement.
Schumacher is now at the Lausanne University Hospital in neighboring Switzerland, hospital spokesman Darcy Christen said, without elaborating.
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Schumacher, his wife and their two children live in Switzerland. His accident happened on a family vacation as Schumacher was skiing with his 14-year-old son.
Schumacher’s family “would like to explicitly thank all his treating doctors, nurses and therapists in Grenoble as well as the first aiders at the place of the accident, who did an excellent job in those first months,” Kehm’s statement said.
“The family also wishes to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes. … We are sure it helped him,” it added. “For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye,” it added.
The 45-year-old German driver was hospitalized with severe head injuries after his Dec. 29 ski accident, which split his helmet as he crashed into rocks on the slope at the Meribel ski resort in the French Alps.
Doctors in Grenoble put him into a coma to rest his brain and decrease swelling, and they operated to remove blood clots, but some were too deeply embedded.
Little information has been released on Schumacher’s condition over recent months. Monday’s statement was the first substantial update since Kehm said in early April that Schumacher “shows moments of consciousness and awakening.”
“If he’s been released from the hospital he was in, it means he’s able to support his own breathing and bodily functions,” said Dr. Tipu Aziz, a professor of neurosurgery at Oxford University’s John Radcliffe Hospital.
The fact that Schumacher is going into rehabilitation “suggests there’s been long-term side effects of his injury,” he added.
“With rehabilitation, they’ll try to train him to cope with the disabilities that he’s got to achieve as much life function as possible,” Aziz said. “If he’s had a brain injury, he may have weakness in his limbs secondary to loss of brain function. He may have problems with speech and swallowing.”
Schumacher earned universal acclaim for his uncommon and sometimes ruthless driving talent, which led to a record 91 race wins. He retired from F1 racing in 2012 after an unmatched seven world titles.
The Mercedes team, for which Schumacher raced in the last three years of his career, posted on Twitter: “Encouraging news on Michael’s condition this morning. We couldn’t ask for a better start to the week. #KeepFightingMichael.”