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March 2016

Sports Medicine in New Zealand

Casey MeizingerCasey Meizinger, MD, CSCS
PGY-2, Stanford University Health Care

The day after I matched at Stanford, I got on a plane and headed to New Zealand for a sports medicine elective, my last rotation of medical school. What are my favorite memories of this incredible adventure?

First, was the indescribable beauty of New Zealand. So many areas of this country are completely untouched and it was unlike anything I have ever seen. Words really can’t express, so I’ll let the pictures talk…

                                         Piha Beach               Paihia, Bay of Islands

                                                                        Bridal Veil Falls

Working with the physicians at Unisports Sports Medicine was incredible. They are based in Auckland, New Zealand, and they offer sports medicine, physiotherapy, orthopaedic surgery, podiatry, massage therapy, and nutrition. We provided care for people of all ages and activity levels, from recreational runners to professional rugby athletes.


It was eye-opening learning about musculoskeletal modalities more commonly used in New Zealand as well as their unique health care system. For example, when it came to utilizing more invasive therapies for tendinopathy, the physicians were more keen to perform modalities like autologous blood injections and extra-corporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT). ESWT was frequently offered for plantar fascia pain, Achilles tendinopathy, and hamstring pain. It looks and sounds a bit like a jack-hammer. 


New Zealand's health insurance is very different from ours! The Accident Compensation Corporation covers the costs of treatment for cases considered “accidents,” and this was frequently utilized by patients at Unisports since they deal with injuries. Not everyone has health insurance; they instead just save money for emergencies. Physicians do not need medical malpractice, and as said by one New Zealander, “nobody really sues each other here.” In 2010, New Zealand ranked last in a study for the level of medications used in 14 developed countries, and spent the least money on health care amongst the same list of countries.

A highlight of the sports medicine rotation was providing medical coverage at an International Triathlon Union’s event in Auckland. We helped care for a wide range of athletes, from rookie to elite level triathletes.


Other memorable highlights of New Zealand?

Being the only person at the tip of Cape Reinga watching the sun rise. Cape Reinga is the northern-most tip of New Zealand, and that area of choppy water is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea.


Digging up a natural “hot tub” at Hot Water Beach, thanks to an underground volcano deep underneath the sand.


Finally, skydiving from 12,000 feet up in Queenstown. Overall, experiencing sports medicine in New Zealand will always be a top highlight in my new career as a PM&R physician. I’m very grateful for the opportunity!

                          NZ7     NZ8