Schumacher comes out of coma
Michael Schumacher is no longer in a coma, it was revealed today.
The seven-times Formula One champion has left the hospital in Grenoble, France, where he had been receiving treatment after suffering a head injury in a skiing accident last year.
He has been transferred to a hospital in Switzerland.
The motor racing star was hurt in the incident in the French Alps in December, and was subsequently put into an artificially-induced coma a few days later.
But his management company said in a statement: "Michael has left the CHU Grenoble to continue his long phase of rehabilitation. He is not in a coma any more."
Schumacher's family expressed their gratitude to all those who have played a part in the process over the past five and a half months.
The statement added: "His family would like to explicitly thank all his treating doctors, nurses and therapists in Grenoble, as well as the first aiders at the place of the accident, who did an excellent job in those first months.
"The family also wishes to thank all the people who have sent Michael all the many good wishes. We are sure it helped him.
"For the future we ask for understanding his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye."
University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV) in Switzerland confirmed that Schumacher had been transferred there.
Darcy Christen, a spokesman for the hospital, said: "I can confirm that he has been admitted this morning."
He said the hospital would not be disclosing any details about the star's condition or which part of the hospital he is being treated in.
"I can't say anything about his medical status. We have decided to ensure for him and his family privacy and medical confidentiality."
Schumacher's family home is reportedly between Lausanne and Geneva.
One expert said patients in the "rehabilitation" phase are often moved closer to home.
Helen Fernandes, consultant neurosurgeon at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said: "This is a period that can be quite lengthy where people are supported to recover as best as possible after their head injury through things like physiotherapy and speech and language therapy.
"That tends to be closer to their geographical home because the interaction with friends and relatives becomes very important. They form a large part of supporting the patient through their neurological recovery."
She said the disclosure that Schumacher is no longer in a coma suggests he has responded in some way to his surroundings.
"It would mean he is no longer unconscious and he is aware of his environment," she said. " Maybe he is talking or making some voluntary, purposeful movements,
"But it doesn't tell us much more in terms of what level that functioning would be."
She said it was impossible to draw any firm conclusions about the driver's recovery chances from the information that is currently available.
Generally patients with head injuries can be supported through a rehabilitation period for anything up to 12 or 18 months, she added.
It has been 170 days since Schumacher was injured following his fall off piste in the French Alpine resort of Meribel.
Schumacher initially required surgery to remove a haematoma from his brain, but despite its success, the 45-year-old was forced to remain in a coma under sedation.
Official reports after the initial frenzy surrounding Schumacher's status have been few and far between, prompting a number of scare stories regarding his future.
Before today the last update on Schumacher's condition had been in early April which stated he was showing of "moments of conciousness".
The developments were welcomed by fellow sports stars on Twitter.
Arsenal and Germany forward Lukas Podolski wrote: " What a great news!!! Get well soon Schumi!!! I'm so glad and happy when I just heard it!! #schumi #getwellsoon."
Former England captain Rio Ferdinand tweeted: " Schumacher out of coma & out of hospital.....just in time for Germany's 1st game of this World Cup. Inspiration."
Schumacher's compatriots in the German football team will begin their World Cup campaign in Brazil against Portugal tonight.
The Mercedes F1 team, for which the driver raced in the last three years of his career, tweeted: " Encouraging news on Michael's condition this morning. We couldn't ask for a better start to the week. #KeepFightingMichael."
Tipu Aziz, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Oxford, struck a cautionary tone.
He said the fact the star was no longer in a coma suggests he is "better than he was" but added: "A full recovery is extremely unlikely.
"The fact he was in a coma for so long ... we can assume that he has had quite a bad injury. People don't tend to make a full recovery from that sort of injury."