New hope for torn tendons
Danville doc hones new technique to treat sports injuries
Milt Vardakis, an avid sportsman from Danville, searched in desperation for a solution to the severe pain in his tendon, which began two years ago. It prevented him from the physical activities he loved - playing basketball and tennis.
Vardakis finally found Danville podiatrist Howard Sokoloff, who used new technology to repair the damage in his broken Achilles tendon.
"Sokoloff is one of the gifted podiatrists here in the Bay Area," said Vardakis. "His methods enabled a better lifestyle."
Howard M. Sokoloff, a podiatric physician and surgeon whose office is in San Ramon, has been using a new technique called Topaz Ablation - developed by ArthroCare Corp. - to heal Achilles tendons, plantar fasciitis and tendinopathies. The technology is a surgical procedure that increases blood supply and oxygen in the wounded area, allowing healing. It is less invasive than other techniques, which often involve sewing and suturing. Although, like all surgeries, there are risks of the ablation therapy causing an infection or not working, Sokoloff noted.
Nonetheless, he has seen positive results since he started using it last year. He said he has treated more than 30 cases of plantar fasciitis using ablation. It has been used in cardiology, urology and now orthopedic medicine.
"The results are so favorable that more surgeons are using it," Sokoloff said.
Common ailments Sokoloff has treated are hereditary deformations, foot and ankle injuries, often from sports injuries and fractures. He also said he sees many tendon problems. He said preparing and stretching physically are ways to prevent injuries. He noted that understanding the activity or sport one gets involved in helps, too.
Mustang soccer coach Dwight Maloney said he has his kids stretch and exercise before playing. But he hasn't seen many serious injuries other than minor scrapes.
Andy Lutz, San Ramon Valley High School varsity tennis coach, said he also requires his player to stretch and wear shoes that are specially made for the sport.
Whatever injury his patients are facing, Sokoloff said he treats their injuries with a conservative approach, such as physical therapy. If this fails, he then makes a recommendation.
Sokoloff grew up in Pennsylvania.
"I was always interested in small joint surgery," he said.
He studied at the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine and received his degree. He moved to California in 1976 and studied podiatric surgery at the California College of Podiatric Medicine. He did surgical residency in Hayward.
"He has a sense of passion," said Vardakis.
When Vardakis was looking for a doctor to repair his ankle, he wanted the best. Through word of mouth, he found Sokoloff. At first, they approached Vardakis' healing conservatively, through physical therapy for three months. But that didn't work.
Then Sokoloff recommended ablating his wound. Vardakis listened to the doctor's advice. Although Sokoloff had said it would be two months before he would be fully healed to play sports, Vardakis was able to play basketball again after four weeks.
Sokoloff has been helping other doctors use the ablation method and lecturing other medical professionals about it.
"It's a quality of life thing," he said.