Is Harvey Weinstein's Walker Just a Prop to Gain Sympathy? Experts Weigh In

The disgraced mogul has been sporting a $30 device (with tennis balls, no less) at his sex crimes trial after undergoing a bilateral laminectomy in December — but some are skeptical.
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Is Harvey Weinstein really in pain? Or is that $30 walker (with tennis balls, no less) he's been sporting at his sex crimes trial a courtroom prop designed to elicit sympathy?

Only his spine surgeon knows for sure — Weinstein, 67, underwent a bilateral laminectomy in December, his rep says — but some experts are skeptical. "It's not even sized appropriately for him," says Kate Miller, a physical therapist with Preferred Healthcare. "It's so high and doesn't support the improvement of gait we should see."

Adds physical therapist Anthony Rojas, "He shouldn't be leaning over his walker — it's not giving him support. The only reason he'd be doing this is if the surgery didn't do enough." 

USC's Rob Landel, a professor of clinical physical therapy and director of the residential doctor of physical therapy program, says "from a physical therapy and rehabilitation standpoint, the way he’s moving is not inconsistent with someone who is having severe back pain — especially if they’re having some weakness in the legs. You can use a walker on stairs but it's a little awkward, so if there's a ramp, that would be the preferable way to go."

Landel says based on patients with similar injuries, a walker could be used for several weeks, maybe a month, but obviously it varies. "When Joe Montana had back surgery, he was back playing in the NFL in six weeks. He was younger at the time, and when you're older, these injuries happen over a longer period of time. [Harvey] is 67 years old. Putting the [recovery] on the longer end of the time frame is not unreasonable."

Dr. Karen Litzy, a physical therapist who serves as a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, agrees with Landel that age plays a factor in terms of recovery. “A person’s age and what their mobility was like pre-surgery determines how a person can present post-surgery. Usually what that type of surgical procedure, it can take two to four months to recover and up to one year to get back to previous functions.”

— with reporting by Chris Gardner

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.