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The incidence of plantar fasciitis in the United States military

PainSci » bibliography » Scher et al 2009
Tags: etiology, plantar fasciitis, pro, foot, leg, limbs, pain problems, overuse injury, injury, tendinosis

One article on PainSci cites Scher 2009: Complete Guide to Plantar Fasciitis

PainSci commentary on Scher 2009: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

How common is plantar fasciitis exactly? It’s surprisingly hard to find data on this topic, and this is probably still the best study available as of 2020. Skipping to the punchline, it’s about 1% of the population per year, which is roughly 4x the rate for strokes.

More technically now: it’s about 10.5 per “1000 person-years.” Which means that if you followed a thousand people for a year, 10.5 of them would get plantar fasciitis. That adds up to about 3.5 million Americans every year, or about 82 million people globally (give or take quite a bit, because the incidence probably varies a lot around the world).

This was also a study of risk factors — how common plantar fasciitis for certain types of people — and it flagged women as particularly at risk (roughly double). Aging is a risk factor too, of course: you’re more than three times likelier to develop plantar fasciitis if your over forty than if you’re in your twenties.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Although plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, little has been reported on the incidence rates of this disorder. We sought to determine the incidence rate and demographic risk factors of plantar fasciitis in an ethnically diverse and physically active population of United States military service members.

METHODS: A query was performed with use of the Defense Medical Epidemiology Database for the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, code for plantar fasciitis (728.71). Multivariate Poisson regression analysis was used to estimate the rate of plantar fasciitis per 1000 person-years, while controlling for sex, race, rank, service, and age.

RESULTS: The overall unadjusted incidence rate of plantar fasciitis was 10.5 per 1000 person-years. Compared with men, women had a significantly increased adjusted incidence rate ratio for plantar fasciitis of 1.96 (95% confidence interval, 1.94 to 1.99). The adjusted incidence rate ratio for black service members compared with white service members was 1.12 (95% confidence interval, 1.09 to 1.12). With junior officers as the referent category, junior enlisted, senior enlisted, and senior officer rank groups had a significantly increased adjusted incidence rate ratio for plantar fasciitis: 1.20 (95% confidence interval, 1.18 to 1.23), 1.19 (95% confidence interval, 1.17 to 1.22), and 1.56 (95% confidence interval, 1.52 to 1.61), respectively. Compared with service members in the Air Force, those in the Army and Marines had a significantly increased adjusted incidence rate ratio for plantar fasciitis of 1.85 (95% confidence interval, 1.82 to 1.87) and 1.28 (95% confidence interval, 1.25 to 1.30), respectively. The adjusted incidence rate ratio for the age group of forty years old or more compared with the twenty to twenty-four-year-old group was 3.42 (95% confidence interval, 3.34 to 3.51).

CONCLUSIONS: Female sex; black race; junior enlisted, senior enlisted, and senior officer rank groups; service in the Army or Marines; and increasing age are all risk factors for plantar fasciitis.

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