Can Michael Schumacher Recover From His Severe Brain Injuries?

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Over three weeks ago, famous Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher suffered devastating head injuries while skiing in the French Alps. He was placed in a medically-induced coma while doctors worked to relieve swelling, but as time passes many are beginning to fear the worst.

Schumacher in 2005 Source: Chris J. Moffett

Schumacher in 2005
Source: Chris J. Moffett

The lack of concrete updates from trustworthy sources only makes matters worse, as several unverified reports are now suggesting Schumacher may never wake up from his coma. The reports appear to be originating from an Austrian news site, whose credibility cannot be determined currently.

The one thing that has become glaringly apparent is that if Michael Schumacher does wake up from his coma, his won’t be the same man he was back in December.

Former F1 Medical Delegate Dr. Gary Hartstein, M.D., told Aukland Now it was virtually impossible “the Michael we knew prior to this fall will ever be back.”

“I think that it will have to be considered to be a triumph of human physical resiliency, and of modern neurointensive care, if Michael is able to walk, feed himself, dress himself, and if he retains significant elements of his previous personality,” Hartstein said.

“If recovery proceeds to this point (which is totally possible, if perhaps rather improbable), it is an open question as to how well the ‘higher functions’ (memory, concentration, reading, planning, etc) will recover.”

If Schumacher awakens from his coma, it would still take months, or even possibly years, before he would even resemble his former self. However, there are several stories of remarkable recoveries from severe brain injuries.

The documentary The Crash Reel received acclaim earlier this year for telling the story of snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury on December 31, 2009 while training for the Olympics. Pearce spent weeks in intensive care for his brain injury, before beginning a long and rocky path to recovery. Kevin will never be able to compete again, but he began his recovery unable to speak or control most of his motor functions. He now acts as a public speaker and activist for brain injury education and prevention.

As the clock ticks Schumacher’s chances for a recover similar to Kevin Pearce’s grow slimmer, but his family and friends remain hopeful.

“We all know he is a fighter and will not give up,” his wife Corinna said on Schumacher’s website. ““We are deeply moved that there is no let up in the good wishes for Michael from around the world. That gives us strength. Thank you all of you.”

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