Racing driver Michael Schumacher has shown ”moments of consciousness and awakening,” after lying in a coma for more than three months.
The seven-times Formula 1 racing champion, who was injured in a skiing accident on 29 December, has been in a medically induced coma in an effort to control the effects of his injuries.
The 45-year-old fell while skiing in the French Alps with his 14-year-old son, Mick, and hit the right side of his head on a rock, cracking his helmet.
Doctors in Grenoble operated to remove blood clots from his brain, but some were left because they were too deeply embedded.
In late January, doctors at a hospital in the French city began the process of withdrawing sedatives to try to wake him up. It is not known whether he is yet able to breathe without the help of a ventilator.
Most artificial comas last for a period of two to three weeks.
“Michael is making progress on his way,” Schumacher’s manager, Sabine Kehm, said.
“He shows moments of consciousness and awakening. We are on his side during his long and difficult fight, together with the team of the hospital in Grenoble, and we keep remaining confident.”
She added that Schumacher’s family, which includes his wife Corinna and daughter Gina Marie, did not intend to disclose further details about his condition.
“This is necessary to protect the privacy of Michael and his family, and to enable the medical team to work in full calmness.”
She said his official website bears a holding message thanking fans for their support.
“We are deeply touched by all the messages to get well soon for Michael which still are being sent from all over the world,” the message read.
Recent rumours claimed Schumacher’s wife was considering moving her husband to their home to continue his treatment, by building a specialised medical suite.
However, it is understood that is not part of the family’s plans as they believe he is receiving the best treatment possible at the hospital.
Earlier this week, the front cover of German women’s magazine Die Aktuelle caused outrage when it depicted the star smiling with his wife under the headline “Aufgewacht”, meaning “Awake!”.
However, the cover turned out to be misleading as it actually referred to a story not about Schumacher, but coma victims who had later woken up.
Schumacher was believed to have been conscious immediately following the accident and initial reports claimed that his condition was not serious, but the extent of his injuries soon became evident as doctors warned it was uncertain whether he would ever recover full brain function.
Last week, former F1 chief doctor Dr Gary Hartstein warned fans should prepare themselves “for the worst”, saying the majority of people who had spent a long time in a coma did not fully recover.
Experts have warned that Schumacher’s lack of a working swallowing mechanism could make him vulnerable to pneumonia, while his urinary tract is also under constant observation because of the danger of waste bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing a potentially fatal infection.
He has already beaten one lung infection.
German-born Schumacher, who won a record 91 Grand Prix victories, left F1 last year after a disappointing three-year comeback with Mercedes, following an earlier retirement from Ferrari at the end of 2006.