BoneSmart Spotlight: Craig Raucher

“I am a living, breathing and playing testimonial to the idea that if you find the right surgeons, the right hospitals Craig Raucherand add a very high level of determination, you can play basketball competitively after your knees are replaced.”

…..CraigRaucher

1986 – Craig Raucher,
Captain of DHL Airways
Airport League – Champions

The court is no place for a guy with bad knees!

For Craig Raucher (username raucher on the BoneSmart forum), playing competitive basketball was always a part of life.  But eight years ago at the age of 59, he was definitely in the typical age window for having his knees replaced, especially given his long and rich history with the sport.  Now, at the age of 67 and with two knee replacements behind him, he’s back playing full-court basketball three times weekly not only with his contemporaries but also with friends who are decades younger.

 

While spending more than 30 successful years in the transportation industry, Craig also pursued his life’s passion – basketball.  He’s played organized and college basketball for more than 50 years and is the founder and Commissioner of the Staten Island Basketball League.  This well-known organization at Public School 8 in Great Kills, Staten Island began in 1980.  It’s the oldest and longest running group at the same location in the history of the New York City school system. Ages of the players range from 40 to 70 and the league is run in a most unique way. The participants are seasoned hoopsters who played in high school or college or in leagues for years. During each three-hour session on Monday and Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, most of the guys play six full-court games. It is a great workout and a highly competitive experience.

 

During his lifetime, Craig had many knee surgeries due to injuries from basketball and running.  Eventually, he got to the point where he needed both knees replaced as the pain was unbearable.  As Craig puts it, “My quality of life was not good.  As an aging athlete, basketball and working out defined my nature and were my shield against growing old.  And now I was basically sidelined from both!”

 

Craig Raucher Staten Island

 

The quest begins for a solution

In his search for help with his knee pain, Craig sought out surgeons in the New York City area. During those initial consultations, he was told straight out that he would never play competitive full-court basketball again.  When he asked why not, the doctors replied they never had a patient with one – let alone two – total knee replacements come back and play full-contact, full-court basketball at the intensity Craig was used to.   So even before he started on his knee journey, Craig was told he could not do something that he loved. He silently vowed to write a completely different ending for his recovery“I listened to what they had to say, but I was determined to get back to playing my sport at a high level regardless of what I was told.” This determination led Craig on a recovery journey that, although not appropriate for everyone, worked very well to get him back in the game.  His goal was to defy the odds.

 

Craig’s approach to knee replacement surgery and recovery involved extensive research and some hard work physically to get himself in shape for what was to come. Prior to both surgeries, he spent months in the gym, worked with a therapist and exercised at home to strengthen his leg muscles.  He worked primarily on the four quadriceps muscles in the thigh using a treadmill, bands, and weight machines – all under the guidance of his physical therapist.

 

While he was investigating surgeons, implants and hospitalsCraig discovered BoneSmart.  He began to read the extensive information available on the forum and website as well as the threads detailing others’ experiences with knee replacement surgery.  “For people looking at this type of major surgery with its rehab that can be intensively painful, as well as mentally and emotionally challenging, it’s difficult and depressing enough. But add in the negative assessment of my future outlined by the surgeons I talked to and the road ahead became frightening. I was thankful to have found BoneSmart and I’ve been reading it since 2010. It is unique and has great content!”

Craig Raucher Knee Injury

Structured approach to pre- and post-surgery conditioning

Craig’s biggest question was why many people never fully regain their range of motion after knee replacements.  He noted that even the specialists didn’t seem too concerned with pre-conditioning and getting your body ready for the challenges ahead in recovery.   He became a firm believer in the idea of strengthening muscles he would depend on in recovery.  Craig reasoned that lacking muscle tone could make recovery more difficult and a longer process.  So, even though there are no guarantees with recovery, he decided to give himself all the opportunities for the success he possibly could.  And for Craig, this was a winning formula!“I worked hard in the gym months before the first TKR and hard months before the second TKR.  I worked on a variety of machines in the gym to strengthen all my leg muscles, especially the 4 quads.”

 

Craig’s total knee replacements were done by different surgeons about two years apart.  The first by Dr. Scott Marwin (NYU Langone OrthopedicCenter) was at 59 years old and the second by Dr. David Mayman (Hospital for Special Surgery) at the age of 62.  Both surgeries went well, but he had an especially good experience with post-surgery pain management at the Hospital for Special Surgery.  One day in the hospital, then he was released and on his way to recovery!

 

Once Craig was home, he maintained a strict recovery regimen in addition to his therapy:

  • Frequent icing with an ice machine during the daytime to minimize swelling
  • Use of a combination of prescription medications and over-the-counter pain and inflammation medications for several months to control pain and swelling
  • Daily sessions with a Continuous Passive Motion  (CPM) machine to keep his knee moving and gradually increase his flexion

 

For the first 2 weeks Craig worked with a home therapist and had a nurse monitoring his progress.  By week 3 he was ready to transfer to outpatient therapy to up the intensity a bit.   Formal therapy was done 3 times a week for many weeks and in between sessions he walked slowly on his home treadmill.  After several months, Craig made his first appearance at the gym and gradually began to use the machines to build both upper and lower body strength.  He incorporated stretching statically, bands and kettlebells into the program as he went along.  At each step, Craig was careful to make sure that none of the exercises resulted in significant pain or increased swelling.  It was a slow, steady process of increasing strength and agility.

Happy Hoop Day!Craig Raucher Happy and Fit

 

Six months after the second knee replacement, the big moment came.  Craig was ready to start shooting some hoops.  About 9 months after the surgery he resumed playing full court basketball three times a week.  He had successfully worked his way up to the grueling 3-hour sessions with men 25 years younger.  And much to his joy, he and his knees were holding their own in the games!

In the years since this recovery milestone, Craig has continued to play full-court competitive basketball on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays plus coaching and managing the Staten Island Basketball League.  This tallies up to more than 1500 games and active court time well in excess of 18,000 minutes.“Add to this the hundreds of hours on the treadmill and the time I spent on the leg weight machines putting pressure on my knees … and I feel powerful!  Several of my basketball friends have approached HSS to seek consultations and operations for legs and hips as I have become a walking, talking, playing an advertisement for this type of surgery. I always tell them the same thing: I was very fortunate to have found an excellent orthopedic surgeon in Dr.Mayman and that I was blessed to have found a great hospital. How many guys my age do you know that can play aggressively and at a high level even without having knee replacements?”

 

Craig Raucher Sucessful Story

A positive outlook is critical for success

 

His aggressive approach to rehabilitation and positive mental attitude combined with his doctor’s surgical skills helped Craig achieve his goal of returning to basketball and the life he loves. He may be unusual in his physical, mental and emotional intensity during rehabilitation from his knee replacements, but playing basketball serves as Craig’s means for maintaining mobility and health as he ages.

We’ll let Craig’s own words finish out his remarkable story:

 

“These successes with my knee replacements go hand in hand with the way I have lived my life – maintain a positive outlook, be aggressive in business and in sports, and respectfully question people who claim to be experts (like surgeons). The human spirit and the will to succeed trumps all.  Knee replacement surgery is one of the scariest operations to face, but your fear can be mediated in many ways with information that you receive from great resources like BoneSmart. Ask questions and get involved with your treatment.  Find out the “why” of everything!”

 

Craig Raucher Knee fixed
2015 – Welcoming the sunrise with Mom in Florida

My one regret is that I only have 2 knees to replace! (Just kidding!)

If you’d like to watch Craig and other members of the Staten Island Basketball League in action, check out this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-TuQzZQyTU

Website: http://www.sibl.us/

 

 

Dave & Busters is now a sponsor of the Staten Island Basketball League – September 2018

We have been approached by the nationally recognized Dave & Busters Corporation as a sponsor for the Staten Island Basketball

League as they were opening their first location at the newly renovated Staten Island Mall. That sponsorship became effective on September 2018. The combination of a highly competitive basketball group in tandem with a sports and game oriented highly competitive atmosphere as Dave & Busters provides a hand in glove fit.

 

Dave & Busters is an American restaurant and entertainment business with headquarters in Dallas, Texas.

 

Each Dave & Busters location offers a full service restaurant and a video arcade and as of July 2018 there are 117 locations in the United States and Canada. The newest location  here on Staten Island opened its doors on July 1, 2018 and has been jam packed since day 1.

 

Dave & Busters is a publicly traded multimillion dollar corporation which was founded in 1982.

 

The Staten Island Basketball League as of this September begins our 39th straight year of existence at the same Public School Number 8.

 

PS 8 is one of the oldest schools in New York City as it enters its 80 th year in September 2018.

 

Since the beginning of the SIBL over 400 players from all walks of life, nationalities, religions, ages and backgrounds have walked through the gym doors. All brought together for the love of playing competitive basketball.

The Run

Recently a call came into the league office from the Staten Island District Attorney’s office. The assistant DA asked for Craig Raucher and not knowing what to think I of course answered the call. The ADA wanted to play ball with us and was told in his office that the Staten Island Basketball League had the best “run“ on the Island. Of course we invited him down.

Now for those of you who play b-ball the term “run” has a much different meaning to players. Having the “best run” takes on a greater meaning. The term run is the b-ball language for the game itself in a venue. People come to different parks in New York City, different gyms and other locations looking for a good run. A good run means that the game is very competitive. It means that the players are very competitive. It means that the game is played at a high level with guys that can play.

The magnetism and the appeal to players is that they always want to go to a place where the run is always good. Not good once in a while but good all the time. This league and these players here provide the run. We have the best run on the Island and prove it twice a week in and week out. How is your run?

The Court

Here it is look at it. You have seen it years before in a thousand different cities.
When you walk through the doors of the venerable school on to the time worn basketball court you are transported back decades.
It is an old gym in an old school in an old working class neighborhood. The gym is defiant about giving in and at 80 years old looking forward to its 100 th birthday.
The gym is well worn but well kept. The backboards are wooden and have accommodated endless bank shots and good shots and bad shots but remain strong and sturdy.
The rims are forgiving and have accepted innumerable shots. The floors are aged but always washed and ready. Some spots are patched. The only modern features are the high tech speakers mounted on the ceiling connected to an equally high tech stereo system. We warm up to music from The Eagles to almost anything.
The sounds are universal: squeaking sneakers, men yelling out picks, bodies hitting, cursing.
The smell is a mixture of rubbing liniment, sweat, powder, gatorade
This is heaven on earth.

The Zone

If you play the game you know what the zone is. It is a physical and emotional place you strive of to be in. It validates you as a player. It is the result of thousands of games played over dozens of years with hundreds of players. The zone is when you cannot miss. You shoot you score. Long distance short distance it goes up it goes in. Three, four five times in a row. Unconscious. It does not happen often but when it does it is magical. We have all been there…but not enough

The Origin: Great Kills Park – Staten Island, New York

Located right outside of Public School 8 where the League plays. We started as unlimited numbers of urban kids have always begun by playing in the park. Some call it the court or the yard or the school. Outdoors. New York, Chicago, Miami, Houston, LA, Madrid, Seoul, Cape Town all cities across the USA and the world have thousands of them. They are all the same: old, backboards metal and rusting, rims tight and unforgiving. Water fountains working or broken. Guys getting high in the back smoking weed, drinking, gambling. Maybe a net is electric taped to the hoop maybe it is just a rim. The court is cement hard.

We went to learn how play the game school yard style. Play ground ball. No refs. Physical, difficult, uplifting and redeeming. The competition strong and the games intense. Nothing easy and you have to bring it. You lose and you can sit for an hour with many people waiting. You win and run the table you own the court. But only for that day. The game is pure. You score more points and you win.

In the winter we shoveled the snow from the court and played with gloves on. In the Summer the sun was unrelenting and played until we wilted from the heat. From this park we played in places called the Pit, the Zoo, the Jungle, the Beach. Competition got bigger better and stronger.

The lessons learned on the court carried through life. Team work, hard work, camaraderie.

The Hook

What draws people to this game and this group? Why do players come twice a week for weeks and months and years in a row? Why do old timers turn up to play? What is the hook? The hook in the consistency of the game: played at a high level, played aggressively, played by players who can play and have edge, played by those that don’t want to lose. The hook are the younger players who want to show their best and the older players who want to show they are the best. 25 vs 50, 30 vs 60. No slackers, no laziness, no excuses. Flat out heavy duty b-ball. Once the hook is in you can’t get it out.

Craig Raucher – Founder and Commissioner of the Staten Island Basketball League – www.sibl.us

I am a 62-year-old man with a long and rich basketball history. I am the founder and Commissioner of the Staten Island Basketball League and have played organized and college basketball for 52 years. I’ve had many knee surgeries over the years due to basketball injuries. Eventually had to have both knees replaced as the pain was unbearable and the quality of my life was not good.

As an aging athlete, basketball and working out defined my nature and was a shield against growing old.

I had first knee replaced at another hospital when I was 59 and the second knee replaced by Dr. Mayman when I was 61 at HSS. My experience at HSS from intake to surgery to post-op pain management to discharge was outstanding in every way. My only regret is that I only have 2 knees to replace (only kidding).

I was told by both surgeons that I would not be able to play highly competitive full court basketball again. I listened but at that point was determined to get back to playing at a high level regardless of what I was told.

I worked very hard prior to and after both knee replacements because I wanted to defy the odds. I worked with physical therapists several times per week supplementing those sessions with strong workouts in a fitness gym and using treadmill and stretching techniques in my house.

Six months after the second knee surgery at the HSS, I began shooting. Around 9 months later I resumed playing full court basketball, twice a week, 3 hours each session, with men 30 years younger then me and holding my own.

I am a living, breathing and playing testimonial to an individual who found the right surgeon in Dr. Mayman, found the right hospital in the HSS and added to this a very high level of determination to play ball competitively again.

UPDATE:

It has been three years since I had my last total knee replacement surgery. I was 62 at the time and now I am one month shy of becoming 65. My first total knee replacement surgery was at age 59. I was told that I would never play competitive full court basketball again. Since having my left knee completely replaced by Dr. Mayman 3 years ago at the highly respected Hospital for Special Surgery, I have played full court competitive basketball twice a week for three hours at a time with men in their 30’s. It tallies up to 1500 plus full court games, and 18,000 plus minutes and countless miles back and forth.

I have absolutely no pain, no stiffness, good range of motion, can jump, can run, can cut, can box out and rebound with no problems. I even shoot with ease and scoring like a pro (in my dreams). Add to this the hundreds of hours on the treadmill and the time I spend on the leg weight machines putting pressure pin my knees … and I feel powerful. Several of my b-ball friends have approached HSS to seek consultations and operations for legs and hips as I have become a walking, talking, playing advertisement for this type of surgery. I always tell them the same thing: I was very fortunate to have found an excellent orthopedic surgeon in Dr. Mayman and that I was blessed to have found a great hospital. How many almost 65-year-old’s do you know that can play aggressively and at a high level not having had any surgery at all?

Lastly my aggressive approach to rehabilitation and positive mental attitude combined with the surgical skills of Dr. Mayman and the help of the HSS all combined to help.