Irish Undergraduate Sports & Exercise Medicine Society – Wheels in Motion

The Gait Way to Sport and Exercise Medicine  a BJSM blog series 

By Andy Cummiskey (LinkedIn), Jonny Elliott (@jelliott1989) and Derbhala Murphy (LinkedIn)

Ireland is a small sporting nation with unprecedented numbers pursuing healthy activities in recent years. In 2017, nearly half (43%) of the Irish population participated in sport at least once per week (by way of comparison, this was only 36.1% in England).1,2 While this is not a true like for like comparison due to Sport Ireland opting to omit duration, it is a reflection of the Irish population’s willingness to engage in healthy activities. Despite this, the proportion of adults undertaking sufficient physical activity is perilously low (only 33%) for Irelandand the island of Ireland’s obesity statistics makes for grave reading (Table 14)

Table 1

  Overweight (% population) Cost to state
Republic of Ireland 60% €1.13 billion
Northern Ireland 59% £510 million


Now why do we, as Irish undergraduate sports and exercise medicine (SEM) enthusiasts care about these stats? Well, we know that physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality.5  Furthermore, we know that the WHO has prioritised the need to add physical activity modules to undergraduate healthcare professional training.Less promising, Ireland’s physical activity levels are lagging behind European averages and SEM movements can act as the impetus for change. One means of addressing physical inactivity is to engage undergraduate students, a view espoused by Dr John Paul Leach here.

Currently, there is no Irish Undergraduate SEM Society (IUSEMS). The IUSEMS will act as an undergraduate network for all SEM related topics, addressing the existing undergraduate gap and bringing like-minded people together. The aim of this blog is to advertise this society and ask for help and advice from any clinicians who wish to help us grow this movement.

Current SEM landscape on the island of Ireland

Until recently, Northern Ireland had been one of the sites of the substantive NHS SEM Training Programme, delivering postgraduate SEM training to SpR trainees based in Belfast; however due to funding cuts, training places are not currently available locally. Significant steps however have been taken to enhance the SEM development pathway in the Republic of Ireland with the recruitment of two SpR trainees into the Higher Specialist Training Programmein SEM. This represents the culmination of years of work to deliver a SEM training programme and demonstrates that exercise related injury and illness is a treating priority.

Growing the Undergraduate Movement

University College Dublin (UCD) has now established a working undergraduate Sports and Exercise Medicine Society. In April 2019, the group held its inaugural evening on the theme of  “Careers in SEM”, collaborating with UCD Medical Society. The event hosted an incredible array of professionals and acted as a barometer of interest in the area. It highlighted the vast array of SEM professionals in Ireland with speakers from sporting bodies including the IRFU, FAI, Leinster Rugby, Munster Rugby and Liverpool F.C with varied backgrounds including Orthopaedics, Endocrinology, General Practice and Emergency Medicine. The event invited students from multiple disciplines, including Medicine, Sports Science and Physiotherapy and it is our aim in the future to have a multi-disciplinary committee. Each of the guests spoke about the importance of SEM, their journeys and roles, the challenges, but also the opportunities presented to them in the field. It was a thoroughly insightful and encouraging evening and a demonstration of undergraduate interest in SEM.

Elsewhere, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has established its first undergraduate sports and exercise medicine society (RCSI SemSoc). Later in the year, RCSI SemSoc’s flagship event will host an evening with retired Irish international rugby player, Luke Fitzgerald and current Modern Pentathlete, Natalya Coyle. The aim of the session is to explore the trials and tribulations of elite sport, the role of the doctor, physiotherapist, dietician and psychologist in returning these athletes to the field of play. Furthermore, the session will discuss the benefits of sport and physical activity in shaping these athletes’ lives. We look forward to seeing you there!

We want YOU!

There has never been a better opportunity for undergraduates on the island of Ireland to get involved in SEM. Our aims are:

  • Ensure all relevant and important SEM information is accessible to our undergraduate student network.
  • Run an information evening on SEM career pathway in Ireland and help assist with the running of the FSEM Annual Scientific Conference.
  • Disseminate sports and exercise medicine information over a variety of mediums and formats.
  • Involve students in research & audits, athlete screening programmes and public health initiatives, where possible.
  • Ascertain strong links with other SEM organisations internationally.
  • Provide a professional platform for students across Ireland to network with each other and SEM professionals.

If you’re an Irish undergraduate or recently qualified graduate interested in Sports and Exercise Medicine, let us know! We are keen to reach out to as many people as possible and hear voices from many different disciplines. Drop us a line today – We hope to see you at the FSEM Annual Scientific Conference on 14th September in Dublin.


Andy Cummiskey (LinkedIn) – Andy is a 3rd Year Medical Student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Chartered Physiotherapist.

Jonny Elliott (@jelliott1989) is a final year medical student at Queen’s University Belfast and is currently on elective at the Stadium Sports Medicine Clinic, Sydney. He is actively interested in concussion management, human factors and rugby medicine. Email:

Derbhala Murphy (LinkedIn) is a final year graduate entry medical student in University College Dublin. She has a keen interest in Exercise Medicine and how it can help prevent the epidemic diseases of the 21stcentury.


  1. [Internet]. 2019 [cited 6 August 2019]. Available from:
  2. [Internet]. 2019 [cited 6 August 2019]. Available from:
  3. Physical activity country factsheets (2018) [Internet]. 2019 [cited 6 August 2019]. Available from:
  4. [Internet]. 2019 [cited 8 August 2019]. Available from:
  5. Physical Activity [Internet]. World Health Organization. 2019 [cited 6 August 2019]. Available from:
  6. [Internet]. 2019 [cited 6 August 2019]. Available from:

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