Hollywood legend Robert Redford had polio as a child, and as a result, the gossip media has long speculated that the actor suffered in later life from post-polio syndrome (PPS). While we don’t know for sure that he hasn’t, as he’s never talked about it, it’s not uncommon for supermarket tabloids to invent wild fairy tales about famous celebrities like Redford, so if you see a story like this, be very wary.
Redford’s Bout With Polio
In 2013, Robert Redford revealed in an interview with Fresh Air on NPR that he had polio as a kid. He told host Terry Gross, ” It was a case of mild polio, but it was severe enough to put me in bed for two weeks.” When asked whether he was paralyzed, a common symptom of the disease, Redford said, “I couldn’t move very well, but I was not paralyzed.”
What Is PPS?
Post-polio syndrome is, according to the Mayo Institute, a “group of potentially disabling signs and symptoms that appear decades after the initial polio illness.” These symptoms, which can include muscle and joint weakness, fatigue, and “decreased tolerance of cold temperatures,” among others, can surface 40 or more years after the initial infection.
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One key factor in a person previously infected with polio and then developing PPS is the severity of the initial infection. The more severe the case originally was, the greater the chances of developing PPS. As Redford said himself, his case was mild, which makes him less likely to develop post-polio syndrome.
At the time that this bogus story emerged in 2019, Redford had just appeared in a 90-minute on-stage conversation at the Marrakech Film Festival, where he received an honorary tribute. If Redford was in bad shape, as the gossip claimed, we doubt he’d be able to withstand performing for that amount of time.
We’d also like to note that there hasn’t been any other news from more reliable outlets about Redford’s “failing” health. The actor did suffer a tremendous loss around the time of the story when his son, James, passed away in October 2019 from liver cancer. It was frankly disgusting that any outlet would invent a story about Redford developing PPS while dealing with the death of a child.
Redford does still work from time to time, though at 86, it’s easy to understand why he’s no longer acting and directing as much as he once did. He’s done it all in Hollywood and has nothing to prove, so he’s doing what he should be doing—enjoying life to the fullest without the pressures of work and Hollywood. It has nothing to do with PPS.