The 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher is still in a medically induced coma following his skiing accident over the holidays but according to Schumacher’s manager, Sabine Kehm, the German has been upgraded from ‘critical’ to ‘stable’ condition:

“Michael’s family is very happy and confident with the work of the team of doctors treating Michael, and they trust them completely. Michael’s condition is still considered as stable,”

There was an interesting quote over at the Independent from Dr. Richard Greenwood of the University College London Hospital who is a brain injury specialist:

“If Schumacher survives, he will not be Schumacher.

“He will be [Joe] Bloggs. His rehabilitation will only be effective if he comes to terms with being Bloggs.

“That is a very, very hard process to take people through. They need to come to terms with their limitations — the fact they have changed.”

I can tell you from very personal experience that this is most likely true. When my father suffered a similar situation, he did survive the aneurysm but when he came out of the coma, he was forever changed.

The immediate effect was memory loss and dementia bordering on what seemed to be hallucination. It was a shock to everyone, as you can imagine, but the brain is a incredibly complex thing and depending on the location of the injury, the impact can be different.

Dr. Greenwood’s comments are not meant to be defeatist because a person with a brain injury may never realize that they’ve changed so rehab will only be effective if they can understand that they are not the person they are now but someone else and then work toward that goal.

In my father’s case, he did have his long-term memory and knew his past so we had that base to build on. We won’t know what Schumacher’s condition is until time has equalized the situation and revealed the lasting effects.

This will most likely be a long, long rehabilitation and sometimes it can leave physical impairment as well as mental. The Schumacher we know may not be the Schumacher who awakens but miracles do happen and rehabilitation can be effective so let’s hope for the best of possible outcomes.

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Rapierman

    Similar situations have already occurred in the NFL. There’s been a few suicides of retired players as a result. Studies have shown that all those repeated blows to the head does damage to the brain and causes some psychological changes, and usually for the worse.

  • Mansell’s_Stache

    Sad…just sad. I feel for his family. A sobering reminder of life’s fragility. All the best to Schumacher.

  • Paul

    Work Neuro Units for years. It’s a strange thing. I’ve see the horrifying change to people and I have seen people wake up and go on with their lives almost without change. But, love him or hate him he will always be Herr Schumacher. World Champion and Legend.

    • Thanks Paul, I hope the latter in Schumacher’s case. You have a lot more experience than I, obviously, and I do hope the recovery is full.

  • peterriva

    Todd, your father as well? Mine was told he had 5 years, lasted 15, but it took 12 hours a day rehab by my mother to get him back to 60% capacity. I truly am sorry for anyone having to go through this. It takes a terrible toll on the family.

    • Yes Peter, twice! It was incredibly difficult and especially for my mother. The hours I spent in the hospital were immeasurable. It forever changed the family but I am grateful for the additional 20+ years I had with my father regardless if he was a shadow of the man he was before. Michael is in very good shape and that has a lot to do with recovery and resilience so let’s hope he recovers. I wish that for the Schumacher family because I know the other side of the equation.

  • Marlene

    I think it depends on whitch part of the brain is affected.
    All the best to Michael his family and best friends. He will need you when he wakes up❤️

  • I think outsiders, even physicians, need to be careful about making these kinds of statements. They aren’t working with Michael’s doctors, they don’t know the situation, and while they can potentially make educated guesses, they are just guesses. This guy is stating it as certainty.

    We know from Robin Warner’s experience with a fall and subsequent head injury that this is different than an internal biological event. In the case of those in a coma following a biological event, my feeling (and I could be wrong) is that it’s the biological event, not the coma, that caused the damage and the changes. Michael hit his head. This could result in permanent neurological damage that manifests itself in Michael not being the same again, or it might not. Only time will tell.

    I really think the comments by Dr. Greenwood say more about him at this point than it does about Michael, until Michael is out of the coma and his own physicians and family can start to assess his condition and his prognosis.

  • PS. Here’s a link to Robin Warner’s article on the topic. Cheers.

    • Thanks for the link. Robin is a lucky man. My father’s experience was quite different with both incidents, the latter taking his life, so I, like Robin, am not a physician but I have first-hand knowledge of the situation and lived it every day of my life. Can Michael heal and be back to normal? Sure, is that the norm? No. My father is merely one example but I friend also had a brain injury after falling off his bike. He was wearing a helmet and suffered a fracture an cranial bleeding. He was not the same after he was brought our of the coma and eventually lost his job. He is functioning and his family are grateful but it isn’t he same.

      In my case, we had to work with my father to help him remember things he’d done just minutes ago. We had to get through the haze and slowly try to rebuild. Rest assured, even though all of that hard work (mainly my mother), I can say that his sense of humor was the same and we were grateful for his presence for the 20+ years he was with us.

      It won’t matter what Michael is like, in the end, as long as he lives and they can start the slow healing process to see where he stands. As you say, time will tell and time is always the great revealer and grand equalizer.

    • Michael in Seattle

      Rob’s article is exactly what everyone who cares needs right now. You can also listen to his podcast on this subject at Rob and Jim do a great job with their “fan based” F1 podcasts. Good one to follow along with F1b.

    • Michael in Seattle

      Or, download at iTunes. His personal reflections and optimism are worth the listen.

  • Gavin

    It’s like Richard Hammond said when he was interviewed about Schumacher’s accident. The person who’s gone through this kind of brain injury has to learn to re-adapt. It’s part of who they are now and nothing can undo what was done. The process of understanding and coping with what happened has to take place within that damaged brain. In Hammond’s case he seems to be back to how he was before his accident, but he says it’s still affected who he is, just as being short or being the father to two daughters affects who he is.

    Regardless of whether or not Michael Schumacher appears to be the same man as he was, this will be who he is now. If he does have significant brain injury, I doubt it will help his recovery for people to keep going on about “how great” he used to be. He will be what he will be and he and his family will need support for that reality. I hope the press will be able to respect that.

    Link to BBC interview with Richard Hammond:

  • Tom

    Let me be the optimist. Brain trauma is unpredictable. It’s different in every single case. So while one should be ready to be dealt the worst fate, one can simultaneously hope for the best. That’s why I think saying that “he will not be Schumacher” is a bit drastic and certainly premature. While the fact of the accident will obviously change the man no matter what, even if he ends up fully recovered, that in itself doesn’t necessarily mean that his personality or his mental capabilities will be altered to a degree that would justify calling him “not Schumacher”.