Craig Raucher is still on the basketball court at age 71 thanks to the success of one of the newest technologies for rotator cuff injuries.
As a veteran of replacement surgery on both knees, when his shoulder began hurting, Craig knew to address the problem quickly by researching available treatments and finding an excellent surgeon to help.
As Craig puts it: “I have written a number of articles for BoneSmart over the years about the critical importance of educating yourself on surgeries you may need, learning anatomy and medical terms, finding the right surgeons and hospitals, and understanding rehab for a particular procedure. Depending on the advice of friends or relatives should be secondary to the full and complete understanding of your surgery and recovery.”
. Educating yourself is easier these days with the availability of BoneSmart’s website and forum, internet research, and YouTube videos available on just about anything. Craig’s method of gaining as much knowledge as possible up front is a great way to enable meaningful conversations with your doctors. His guidance: “When surgeons use terms you aren’t familiar with, ask them to explain and write them down to Google them later. Don’t just shake your head as though you fully understand what is being said because in most cases the surgeon will be speaking a foreign language! We spend more time these days with texting or social media sites than on doing the essential homework on issues of personal health and prolonging life ina pain free manner.”
So when Craig began looking at options for relieving his shoulder pain, he was immediately drawn to Stryker’s unique Subacromial Balloon (SAB), which is designed to help heal damaged rotator cuff muscles. This technology has only been in use in the USA since 2021, but was successfully used in Europe for over 10 years before that. He met with Dr. Gregory Montalbano on Staten Island in New York who was proficient in the procedure and had his surgery on May 20, 2022.
A little history…. As the founder of the Staten Island Basketball League in 1980 (www.sibl.us), Craig was actively pursuing his dream of playing hard-nosed, competitive sports well into his senior years. In 2019, he experienced a massive tear in the supraspinatus muscle of his left shoulder. He also had complications with tendons and other muscles that made playing basketball very painful. “When I tried to shoot the ball, I would get excruciating pain in my shoulder and arm. My range of motion was limited. I could shoot with my right arm, but with every movement, I would get pain that radiated into my left shoulder. Rebounding, passing the ball, or when someone ran into me made me see stars from the pain. I could not raise my left arm above my head at all and sleeping on that side was just a distant memory. I was hoping I would be able to have this new procedure to heal my shoulder.”
? With the Subacromial Balloon procedure, an orthopedic surgeon arthroscopically inserts a small balloon into the space between the acromion and the head of the humerus in the shoulder. Once it’s positioned, the balloon is filled with saline solution. It then acts as a buffer to help diminish pain and allow damaged muscles and other soft tissues to heal. The saline dissipates in about 12 months and the balloon disintegrates. For patients who are good candidates for this treatment, it can replace a painful rotator cuff repair procedure with a simpler arthroscopic surgery and an easier recovery. Physical therapy usually begins approximately 4 weeks after surgery and may continue for several months – less total time spent in rehab than with most rotator cuff repairs.
An ambitious recovery plan. Prior to his shoulder injury, Craig was playing full court basketball three times a week with guys who are decades younger. His goal was to get back to this high level of activity as fast as possible, as he relished the time he spent with his beloved sport and the friendly competitive spirit that flourished within the group. Rather than suffer through 8 months or more of painful recovery and rehab with traditional rotator cuff repair surgery, Craig was hoping to be back playing competitively in 5 months.
Five days after surgery, Craig was reporting only moderate pain. It dramatically lessened in his second week. One month out from his procedure, he was doing so well he was able to start therapy early. By three months post-op, Craig had obtained full range of motion in his shoulder and was exercising it on a daily basis. As he was making progress, other patients in rehab were amazed at his range of motion and low pain levels. But even though he was advancing quickly in recovery, Craig opted to keep his original 5-month target to rejoin competitive play on the court, just to be sure he was ready for all that action. It was a wise choice, his surgery was a success, and he’s back in the game once again.
“I just hoped to get into the best shape possible so I could continue to play for a few more years. I didn’t want to leave the game as a broken-down relic, but to retire gracefully and strong. Now I’m thinking 70 is the new 50!”
Way to prove that you’re only as old
as your joints feel, Craig!
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