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Adequacy of Education in Musculoskeletal Medicine

Matzkin, Elizabeth MD; Smith, Major Eric L. MD; Freccero, Captain David MD; Richardson, Allen B. MD

Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery - American Volume: February 2005 - Volume 87 - Issue 2 - p 310–314
doi: 10.2106/JBJS.D.01779
Scientific Articles
Supplementary Content

Background: Basic musculoskeletal knowledge is essential to the practice of medicine. A validated musculoskeletal cognitive examination was given to medical students, residents, and staff physicians in multiple disciplines of medicine to assess the adequacy of their musculoskeletal medicine training.

Methods: The examination was given to 334 volunteers consisting of medical students, residents, and staff physicians. Analysis of the data collected and comparisons across disciplines were performed.

Results: The average cognitive examination score was 57%. Sixty-nine participants (21%) obtained a score of ≥73.1%, the recommended mean passing score. Of the sixty-nine with a passing score, forty (58%) were orthopaedic residents and staff physicians with an overall average score of 94%. Differences in the average scores for the orthopaedic residents compared with all other specialties were significant (p < 0.001). The average score was 69% for the 124 participants who stated that they had taken a required or an elective course in orthopaedics during their training compared with an average score of 50% for the 210 who had not taken an orthopaedic course (p < 0.001). When the scores of those in orthopaedics were excluded, the average score for the participants who had taken an orthopaedic course was 59%; this difference remained significant (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Seventy-nine percent of the participants failed the basic musculoskeletal cognitive examination. This suggests that training in musculoskeletal medicine is inadequate in both medical school and nonorthopaedic residency training programs. Among the nonorthopaedists, scores were significantly better if they had taken a medical school course or residency rotation in orthopaedics, suggesting that a rotation in orthopaedics would improve the general level of musculoskeletal knowledge.

1 Duke University Medical Center, Box 3615, Durham, NC 27710. E-mail address:

2 Orthopaedic Department, Naval Hospital, 100 Brewster Boulevard, Camp Lejeune, NC 28547

3 Tripler Army Medical Center, 1 Jarrett White Road, Honolulu, HI 96859

4 Deceased

Copyright 2005 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
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