Exercise and obesity (EO) and sports and exercise medicine (SEM) are becoming increasingly important topics in today's society, due to rising obesity and inactivity rates, the emphasis on physical activity in the community and the London 2012 Olympics. Musculoskeletal medicine is a well established subject in medical schools, whose adequacy has been regularly investigated. Despite the importance of these subjects and the benefits they offer to the public, little is known about their occurrence in medical school curricula. The study aimed to investigate the availability of EO, SEM and musculoskeletal medicine in UK medical schools, opinions regarding the importance and quality of the teaching and to compare SEM and EO with musculoskeletal medicine teaching. A survey consisting of 14 questions was designed, piloted and then distributed to the deans of undergraduate medical education at 33 UK medical schools, as an anonymous online survey. After the initial launch of the survey, reminder emails were sent to participants every 4 weeks for 4 months. The response rate was 76%. All medical schools have a direct focus on musculoskeletal medicine in their curriculum. 68% have a direct focus on EO and 40% on SEM. There are more optional study opportunities in musculoskeletal medicine. 92% of medical schools assess musculoskeletal knowledge, while only 60% and 28% do so for EO and SEM, respectively. Musculoskeletal medicine is perceived to be more important and have better quality teaching than EO and SEM. The most common barrier to improving education was space in the curriculum. EO and SEM teaching are relatively uncommon in UK medical schools compared to musculoskeletal teaching. Increasing the perceived importance of these subjects and providing curricular guidance to medical schools will help improvements to be implemented. The optional curriculum, particularly student selected components, is likely to be the most appropriate initial method of increasing and improving teaching in EO and SEM.
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