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Report: Speculation increases that Michael Schumacher will not make full recovery

Mar 1, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT

(Photo: Tony Gentile / Reuters) Reuters

Fans hoping Michael Schumacher will make a complete recovery from a serious skiing accident more than two months ago will not like the latest speculation on the condition of the seven-time Formula One champion.

According to the Daily Mail in the U.K., several neurologists – although not associated with Schumacher’s particular case but experts in the type of injuries he suffered – are beginning to believe the 45-year-old former driver will never make a full recovery.

Schumacher fell into a pile of rocks, suffering serious head injuries, while skiing with his family in the French Alps near Grenoble on Dec. 29.

Schumacher’s agent, Sabine Kehm, and attending physicians at Grenoble University Hospital have said Schumacher is continually being slowly weaned from a medically induced coma (due to blood clots in the brain), a process that has now gone on for more than three weeks.

In an email Friday, Kehm repeated the same response she has given several times in the last few weeks: “Michael is still in the wake-up phase,” the Daily Mail reported. “This phase can be long.”

However, neurologists offering independent opinions believe the longer Schumacher fails to respond to treatment and brain stimulation, the longer the odds are that he will make a full recovery.

The situation has been compounded by extremely limited information being released by both the hospital and Schumacher’s family, much to the chagrin of his millions of fans worldwide.

“It does not bode well,” Dr. Tipu Aziz, a professor of neurosurgery at Oxford University who is not involved in Schumacher’s case, told the Daily Mail. “The fact that he hasn’t woken up implies that the injury has been extremely severe and that a full recovery is improbable.

“If you don’t start getting any positive signs, that becomes very worrisome.”

Aziz theorized that Schumacher’s doctors continue to do regular brain scans to see if there are any signs of activity.

Another neurologist interviewed by the Daily Mail, Dr. Anthony Strong, emeritus chair in neurosurgery at King’s College in London, tried to keep Schumacher’s fans somewhat encouraged, but also was cautionary in his assumption.

“About 90 percent of the recovery is made within nine to 12 months, so this is still early days,” Strong said. “The longer someone is in a coma, the worse their recovery tends to be.”

Dr. Colin Shieff, a neurosurgeon at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London and trustee for Headway, a British brain injury charity, said the combination of the time Schumacher has been hospitalized, as well as how long he’s been in an induced coma, likely gives treating physicians an increasingly better baseline to work off of.

“MRI scans can show any secondary deterioration in the brain structure,” Shieff told the Daily Mail.

Shieff cautioned that other parts of Schumacher’s brain that were not injured in the accident may be showing concerning signs because of the lack of activity in the overall brain over the past two-plus months.

According to the Daily Mail, “Shieff said that if Schumacher does eventually come out of the coma, he probably would face significant disabilities because of the length of time he has already spent comatose. While there have been rare instances of people emerging from comas months and years later with the ability to communicate, Shieff was doubtful that would be the case with Schumacher.”

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