Michael Schumacher is showing "small, encouraging signs" that he may awake from his coma, his agent said Wednesday, more than two months after a ski crash left the Formula One champion with severe head injuries.
Updates since Schumacher's accident have offered few details and limited optimism for the man who once drove the world's fastest cars and motorcycles but was critically injured on a familiar ski slope during a family outing. Wednesday's statement was little different, describing "an extremely intimate and fragile situation" for his family.
"It is very hard to comprehend for all of us that Michael, who had overcome a lot of precarious situations in the past, has been hurt so terribly in such a banal situation," Sabine Kehm, a family representative, wrote in a statement. "We are and remain confident that Michael will pull through and will wake up. There sometimes are small, encouraging signs, but we also know that this is the time to be very patient."
Small signs that physicians are watching for could include fluttering eyelids, or efforts to breathe without a ventilator.
"This doesn't change one's opinion of Schumacher's situation in general. It's still very difficult to predict what his long-term recovery will be like and if he does wake up and comes off the ventilator," said Dr. Tipu Aziz, professor of neurosurgery at Oxford University.
"In all likelihood he will be severely disabled," said Aziz, who has not been involved in treating Schumacher.
Schumacher, known affectionately as Schumi, was hospitalized with severe head injuries after the Dec. 29 ski accident, which split his helmet as he crashed into rocks on the slope at the Meribel ski station in the French Alps.
Doctors 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.
Neurologists not involved in his treatment say full recovery appears increasingly unlikely, given the coma's duration and the extent of his injuries.
"Every brain injury is different and no two routes to recovery will be the same," said Luke Griggs, a spokesman for Headway, a British brain injury charity. "It is fair to suggest that any patient waking from a three month-long coma will face the prospect of a long and challenging road to recovery, with the eventual outcome uncertain."