Formula One legend Michael Schumacher is ‘very altered and deteriorated’ six years on from his horrific skiing accident, a leading neurosurgeon has warned.
The former Ferrari driver, 51, suffered a near-fatal brain injury back in December 2013 when he fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing off-piste in the French Alps.
Schumacher is now out of a long-term coma, but leading surgeon Nicola Acciari, who is based in Bologna, claims he is now ‘a person very different from the one we remember on the track’.
The seven-time world champion has since been cared for at his Lake Geneva mansion by his wife Corinna and their two children Gina-Marie, 22, and Mick, 20.
They have kept updates on his health to a minimum since the accident, with Jean Todt, his former manager at Ferrari, revealing last year that Schumacher was ‘still fighting’.
However, Acciari believes that Schumacher is now nothing like the man who dominated F1 between 1994 and 2004.
‘We must imagine a person very different from the one we remember on the track, with a very altered and deteriorated organic, muscular and skeletal structure,’ Acciari told Italian newspaper Contro Copertina.
‘All as a result of the brain trauma he suffered.’
The news comes just months after Todt gave a rare statement on Schumacher’s condition after visiting him to watch a Grand Prix on television.
‘I’m always careful with such statements, but it’s true. I saw the race together with Michael Schumacher at his home in Switzerland,’ he said.
‘Michael is in the best hands and is well looked after in his house. He does not give up and keeps fighting.’
However, Todt did admit that despite not being in a vegetative state, Schumacher was unable to communicate as he did previously.
‘His family is fighting just as much and of course our friendship cannot be the same as it once was just because there’s no longer the same communication as before,’ Todt added.
Ahead of the sixth anniversary of Schumacher’s accident on December 29 last year, his wife Corinna reportedly told fans: ‘Many small particles can form a huge mosaic.
‘Together you are stronger, and that is exactly how combined forces of the KeepFighting movement make it easier to encourage others.’
Schumacher’s old manager and friend, Willi Weber, made the extraordinary claim last year that Corinna was hiding the truth about her husband’s condition.
Speaking on a German documentary, he said: ‘I know that Michael has been hit hard, but unfortunately I do not know what progress he makes.
‘I’d like to know how he’s doing and shake hands or stroke his face.
‘But unfortunately, this is rejected by Corinna. She’s probably afraid that I’ll see right away what’s going on and make the truth public.
‘I firmly believe in Michael’s recovery, because I know he is a fighter.
‘If there is a chance, he will use it. That cannot be the end. I pray for him and am convinced that we will see him again.’
Schumacher has not been seen since the accident, leaving the public to speculate on his condition.
The former Mercedes star spent three months in a medically-induced coma in the aftermath of his fall, and has been closely looked after ever since.
An update came last September, when he was taken to the Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris for a stem cell transfusion to reduce inflammation. An employee claimed that he was now ‘conscious’.
It was reported by Le Parisien at the time that a nurse in the cardiology department said: ‘Yes, he is in my department. And I can assure you he is conscious.’
The French newspaper also reported that former Ferrari boss Todt visited Schumacher at the hospital, spending 45 minutes with the legendary driver.
Todt had been in Chatres earlier attending the funeral of F2 racer Anthoine Hubert following his tragic death in the Belgian Grand Prix on August 30.
It is understood that Todt, along with other Formula One associates, journeyed to visit Schumacher after the service.
Indeed, Michael’s son Mick, an F2 driver himself, had also been at Hubert’s funeral.
Mick was with his father in Meribel when the accident happened on December 29, 2013.
Schumacher hit the right side of his head on a rock, splitting open his helmet.
Doctors worked frantically to remove blood clots from his brain, but some were left because they were too deeply embedded.
Since September 2014, he has received round the clock specialist care at his home in Lausanne, Switzerland.
He is visited only by close friends, none of whom have divulged specifics about his state of health.
Le Parisien, citing sources it did not name, said Schumacher has been treated at least twice previously at the Georges-Pompidou hospital, admitted each time under a false name and treated by a small medical team.