Investigating chronic plantar heel pain

Risk factors, predictors and phenotyping chronic plantar heel pain (CPHP) to improve treatment targeting

Degree type

PhD

Closing date

18 July 2022

Campus

Hobart

Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International

About the research project

CPHP is a chronic musculoskeletal condition that affects up to 10% of adults in their lifetime. It is the most common reason why individuals with musculoskeletal foot pain consult a healthcare practitioner, and is frequently recalcitrant to treatment.

The Plantar HEEl Pain Study (PHEEPS) is the largest case-control and longitudinal follow-up of CPHP cases that we are aware of and was recently completed at Menzies by a previous student. We now have access to this large, curated database with further opportunities to explore risk and prognostic factors associated with CPHP. This data will help improve our understanding of CPHP phenotypes and inform treatment targeting, with the view to testing interventions specific to these phenotypes.

A large unexplored area of research potential is the investigation of metabolic and meta-inflammatory biomarkers in CPHP. As part of the PHEEPS project we have collected blood samples on cases and controls (at baseline). Metabolic factors have not been assessed in CPHP but this is important as they have been associated with tendon disease elsewhere, and our own and other research indicates that obesity including waist girth is strongly associated with heel pain risk.

This extensive database can support further investigation into bone and imaging factors in CPHP as well as treatment, physical activity and footwear factors.

There is also potential to extend the longitudinal follow up of cases (beyond the current 12 months), and to use our newly understanding of CPHP to design clinical trials for the condition, for example targeting bone (‘Bone Marrow Lesions’) in the calcaneus to trial a bone-specific treatment targeting this specific CPHP phenotype.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Tania Winzenberg

Funding

Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Eligibility

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Background in allied health or a related musculoskeletal healthcare profession
  • Knowledge and skills in epidemiology and/or ability to gain these skills
  • Experience in quantitative data analysis and/or ability to gain these skills

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience with using Statistical software package such as STATA or "R"

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Tania Winzenberg to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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