Schumi may be in coma for the rest of his life

People with severe head injuries like the one that left Michael Schumacher in critical condition have permanently altered brains that make the victims more likely to become mentally ill and die prematurely, scientists said on Wednesday.

Brain experts said most health services fail to make the link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and long-term mental consequences, meaning patients can fall through the net into depression, behavioural problems and crime.

While Schumacher, a wealthy and famous former motor-racing driver well supported by family, friends and doctors, is in a far better position that most with TBI, he will nevertheless still have a changed brain and will need to readjust and cope.

Fears, however, are growing in Germany that the stricken F1 legend may be in a coma for the rest of his life.

German weekly news magazine Focus reported that “Schumacher could be in a coma forever” after speaking with experts on his condition. Bild newspaper also reported that his condition is so grave that there are currently no plans to wake him.

He has been in an artificially induced state of unconsciousness for 19 days now and the silence from his management and the medical teams treating him in Grenoble, France, lead many to fear the worst.

The coma means that oxygen to his brain is reduced, therefore it works less and is better placed to recover from the injuries sustained during a low-speed ski accident on Dec 29. 

“If Schumacher survives he will not be Schumacher. He will be (Mr) Bloggs. And his rehabilitation will only be effective if he comes to terms with being Bloggs -- and fulfils what Bloggs can do,” said Richard Greenwood, a consultant neurologist at London's Homerton Hospital and at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

“That's a very, very difficult process to take people through - and many people don't achieve it.”

The study, published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that survivors of TBIs are three times more likely to die prematurely than the general population. A TBI is a blow to the head that leads to a skull fracture, internal bleeding, loss of consciousness for longer than an hour.

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