Plantar enthesopathy: Thickening of the enthesis is correlated with energy dissipation of the plantar fat pad during walking

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Journal Article

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Interim status: Citation only.

Wearing, S. C., Smeathers, J. E., Urry, S. R., Sullivan, P. M., Yates, B. & Dubois, P. (2010). Plantar enthesopathy: Thickening of the enthesis is correlated with energy dissipation of the plantar fat pad during walking. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 38(12), 2522-2527.

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2010 HERDC submission. FoR Code: 110601, 110604, 110314

© Copyright Scott C. Wearing, James E. Smeathers, Stephen R. Urry, Patrick M. Sullivan, Bede Yates, and Philip Dubois, 2010.


Background: The enthesis of the plantar fascia is thought to play an important role in stress dissipation. However, the potential link between entheseal thickening characteristic of enthesopathy and the stress-dissipating properties of the intervening plantar fat pad have not been investigated.

Purpose: This study was conducted to identify whether plantar fat pad mechanics explain variance in the thickness of the fascial enthesis in individuals with and without plantar enthesopathy.

Study Design: Case-control study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: The study population consisted of 9 patients with unilateral plantar enthesopathy and 9 asymptomatic, individually matched controls. The thickness of the enthesis of the symptomatic, asymptomatic, and a matched control limb was acquired using high-resolution ultrasound. The compressive strain of the plantar fat pad during walking was estimated from dynamic lateral radiographs acquired with a multifunction fluoroscopy unit. Peak compressive stress was simultaneously acquired via a pressure platform. Principal viscoelastic parameters were estimated from subsequent stress-strain curves.

Results: The symptomatic fascial enthesis (6.7 ± 2.0 mm) was significantly thicker than the asymptomatic enthesis (4.2 ± 0.4 mm), which in turn was thicker than the enthesis (3.3 ± 0.4 mm) of control limbs (P <.05). There was no significant difference in the mean thickness, peak stress, peak strain, or secant modulus of the plantar fat pad between limbs. However, the energy dissipated by the fat pad during loading and unloading was significantly lower in the symptomatic limb (0.55 ± 0.17) when compared with asymptomatic (0.69 ± 0.13) and control (0.70 ± 0.09) limbs (P <.05). The sonographic thickness of the enthesis was correlated with the energy dissipation ratio of the plantar fat pad (r =.72, P <.05), but only in the symptomatic limb.

Conclusion: The energy-dissipating properties of the plantar fat pad are associated with the sonograpic appearance of the enthesis in symptomatic limbs, providing a previously unidentified link between the mechanical behavior of the plantar fat pad and enthesopathy.

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