Dr. Leonard Vekkos, DPM
Board Certified Podiatrist
Foot & Ankle Wellness Center
At Seven Bridges
Every month we select a physician to highlight for our newsletter. We strive to have an open line of communication with doctors that our patients work with. Our open line of communication allows every aspect of your health-care to be taken care of in the most effective way. We choose to educate you on doctors that are in the top of their field, great team players, and exemplify the quality of standards that Achieve Orthopedic Rehab Institute possesses.
1. What sets your practice apart from other podiatry centers?
The standard answer might be that we have great facilities with the most up-to-date technology, excellent physicians at what they do and a well-trained staff that cares about their patient's, etc.,…But the real difference in our practice is the ability to be able to offer our patients an environment that is welcoming, warm and invites all of her patient's to be comfortable and feel at home. It is often that I have patient's comment on how they love coming to our office. That tells me that we are doing our job in letting people know that we really care about them. We are an informal yet professional group of people that wishes to get to know our patients as a whole person and not just a foot that’s attached to a person.
2. Reconstructive surgery seems to be your passion, what new advances or research is out there that our patients may not be aware of?
Over the course of 30 years that I have been in practice, it has always been extremely important for me to constantly be learning and aware of what is new and upcoming in our profession. The advances that are being made in the realm of reconstructive foot surgery encompass all aspects from new methods of healing bone with concentrated platelets, new advances in bone stimulators, custom built titanium implants manufactured with a 3-D printer, innovations in total ankle joint implants that are giving new hope to younger patients with degenerative arthritis in the ankle joints or post-traumatic deformities, use of titanium metal frames that are attached to the outside of the foot and leg to actually correct limb length and significant angular deformities of the leg. We are learning that it is okay to perform surgery in children at a younger age without causing damage to the growth so as to correct deformities earlier in life so that the foot and ankle can grow in a more normal position. I have personally and professionally taken on a consulting role in several companies that are advancing the manufacture of synthetic materials to aid in the stronger and quicker repair of ruptured tendons and ligaments in the foot and ankle. I continue to be excited on a daily basis of what is new and upcoming in our profession.
3. How have physical therapy and the inclusion of AlterG Anti-gravity treadmill walking helped your patients to progress? Why do you suggest it for your patients?
Physical therapy is a critical part of my patients as it pertains to recovery from injuries and surgical reconstructions. It is only because of physical therapy that they are able to recover faster and with greater strength and stability. My association with Gina Pongetti and Achieve Orthopedics brought to my practice a modality that I feel is revolutionizing the way that we were able to rehabilitate our patients after specific procedures. The AlterG is a tremendous tool which allows me to weight-bear and ambulate my patients much earlier without stressing the surgical sites. I'm able to allow them to get into a more normal walking and running routine much sooner. I firmly believe that the AlterG should be a mainstay in the armamentarium of any physician who utilizes physical therapy for rehabilitation of the lower extremities.
4. How can pes planus (or flat feet) affect a runner, or endurance athlete, long term?
The concept of the effective flat feet on running is often misunderstood. I have patients with significantly flat feet who are able to run without any problems or difficulties. What must be understood is that our feet function as a shock absorber and allow the rotational motions of our upper body and legs to be translated into a forward motion. Someone with a flatfoot has very little normal motion in the joints and as such is not able to absorb shock or translate that motion as effectively. This can result in the translation of the shock of hitting the ground up through the leg into the knees and lower back causing pain and arthritic changes. An important aspect of flat feet is whether the feet are rigid, semirigid or flexible. The more flexible a flatfoot, the better the chances that individual will have less problems and difficulties. Additionally, the use of custom molded orthotics to support the flat foot structure becomes an important adjunct in assisting the endurance athlete to accommodate to uneven surfaces that they often will encounter during their activities. Other contributions including any deformities in the lower legs, hips and any potential spinal deformities can also contribute to an increase in symptomatology in an individual that has flat feet. Anyone contemplating taking on endurance running should have an evaluation by a podiatrist who has an interest in sports medicine so that they can be educated on the foot structure that they have and whether anything needs to be done prophylactically to prevent problems as they start there are exercise regimens.
5. How is working with the athlete different from a general patient?
My practice has always been opened to accepting patients with all sorts of issues and problems. I have found that the athletic patient will often require special considerations not only in the treatment approach but also in the conversations had during the initial evaluation and visit. Athletes will come to my office with a different mindset as it pertains to training and the ability to often work through painful situations that relatively sedentary people would acknowledge. This can sometimes lead to stress fractures of the legs and feet or injuries to the soft tissues that will place that athletic individual at a greater risk of missing even more time from training. I've come to understand that any time taken away from training for a marathon or triathlon has a significant psychological impact on the athlete. As a result, it becomes important for me as a podiatrist with an interest in sports medicine to listen to the goals and desires of the athlete. It is very common in these patients that there life revolves around athletics and that everything else can become secondary. This does not lessen the importance of whatever else is happening in the athletes life as much is stressed the importance of the training and the lifestyle that is often built around the athletic activity. It also becomes important for the athlete to listen to their body and seek out a podiatrist as early as possible if changes occur to start impact her ability to continue training. My job is to listen and the athletes job is to talk as soon as symptoms become apparent.
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