GENEVA (AFP) - Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has left a Swiss hospital and will continue his treatment at home after a devastating ski accident in December, his family said in a statement on Tuesday.
In a surprise announcement, a spokesman for the family of the retired German racing star said he was being moved from a top-notch hospital in the Swiss city of Lausanne to his home in nearby Gland.
"Henceforth Michael's rehabilitation will take place at his home," Ms Sabine Kehm said, stressing that "considering the severe injuries he suffered, progress has been made in the past weeks and months". "There is still, however, a long and difficult road ahead," she cautioned, providing no further details on Schumacher's health status.
The 45-year-old slammed his head on a rock while skiing with his son and friends in the French Alps in December. The seven-time world champion underwent two operations to remove life-threatening blood clots after the freak accident that shocked the world, before being plunged into a medically induced coma.
He emerged from the coma in June and was transferred from a French hospital to the University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV), renowned for it neurology experts.
"We would like extend our gratitude to the entire team at CHUV Lausanne for their thorough and competent work," Tuesday's statement said.
"We ask that the privacy of Michael's family continue to be respected, and that speculations about his state of health are avoided," it added.
Known as the "Red Baron" in reference to an ace World War I German fighter pilot, Schumacher made his debut in 1991 and dominated Formula One not long after.
A ruthless and at times controversial competitor, the German won an unprecedented 91 races, and seven world titles including five in a row with Ferrari from 2000 to 2004.
He first retired aged 37 but was unable to resist the lure of the track. In 2010, he came out of retirement but failed to re-enact his previous performances, and he quit for good in 2012.
Retirement did not dull his relish for adrenaline, however, and he kept pursuing thrill-seeking hobbies as the holder of a pilot's licence, an accomplished motorbike rider, parachutist, skier and mountain climber.
He survived a motorbike accident in Spain in 2009, during which he suffered head and neck injuries but was released from hospital after just five hours.