The World Medical and Health Games — 2019 Budva

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

By Shona Kohlhardt @ShonaKohlhardt

This year Montenegro’s picturesque city, Budva, hosted over 1,200 participants from 45 countries for the 40th World Medical and Health Games – Medigames. Bringing together like-minded people from all over the world with a passion for sports and medicine, Medigames was first held in 1978 in Cannes, France.

Medigames is an international week-long, annual event, promoting and celebrating the benefits of exercise for health. Benefits are demonstrated practically via sports competitions, and theoretically with a Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM) Symposium. This year I was lucky enough to attend my first Medigames with a friend (and I left with many more).

Sports and Medicine: the perfect duo

Sports and medicine are similar in some ways. Both benefit an individual’s health, physically and psychologically. Both hold respect for everyone involved: players, opponents, spectators, and, health-care professionals, patients and the public. Both have an oath: at the opening ceremony for Medigames, an oath of fair-play was made, similar to the hippocratic oath made at my medical graduation.

The Games of Medigames

Medigames is the Olympics for all health-care professionals. Many of whom don’t have enough time to dedicate to training– this levels out the playing field. It allows health-care professionals to choose both competitive international sports and medicine, and not only one or the other.

Competition varies at these games: for some individuals, this was their 20th Medigames, some are also training for the 2020 Olympics, while some are just trying the sport for the first time. There’s really a place for everyone at Medigames!

Sport and Exercise Medicine

Dr André Monroche (former chairman of the French Sports Medicine Society) chaired the international SEM symposium. Themes this year included:

  • Sport and Nutrition
  • Cardiovascular Fitness and Exercise
  • Sports Activity and Cancer
  • Pathologies related to the Practice of Sport

What can other conferences learn from Medigames?

Personally, Medigames stood out to me compared to other SEM conferences. The organisers succeeded in bringing together different nationalites and specialities, to partake in sports and deliver informative SEM presentations.

SEM conferences can sometimes be fairly ironic- participants can end up sitting down for hours, listening to how benefical physical activity is. More recently, I see conference organisers trying to break this mould. For example: there are now stand-up friendly conferences where attendees stand up and applaud every speaker (trust me, your quadriceps notice it in the morning!). Other organizers have hosted morning runs before talks, and like in Medigames, sports tournaments for attendees.

My week at Medigames

After a parade through Budva, Medigames officially began on Sunday night. We were then treated to a traditional Montenegrin dance by local children.


Most days I started with a refreshing (quite literally) competition in the pool, and was lucky enough to be awarded medals onsite. I also took part in Athletes (in Bar), explored the National Park Lovcen supporting my friends in the cross-country, and got caught-up in the fun atmosphere of the football matches. Nightly medals ceremonies were held at the games centre.

A great place to network 

I met so many international participants, and made many new friends, who now feel like family after we celebrated together at the Medigames party (with all-inclusive buffet, drinks and DJ).

The variety of competitors was evident on display boards- where their nationality, health-care profession, and sport of choice was highlighted. Being international brought a new dimension to the conference. Every person you meet (French eye-surgeons, Spanish traumatologists, Portuguese physical & rehabilitation physicians, Australian sports pyschiarists, and many more) have something new to teach you about the health-care system in their country and the future they see for that system.



The whole idea of Medigames sounded too good to be true. The up-beat atmosphere created many joyous memories for myself, and other participants. And I’m sure these memories will frequently resurface, and remind me to encourage all patients to engage in exercise.

All heath-care professionals can benefit from Medigames. I say this after enjoying a swim with a Brazilan nurse, Swiss Cardiology Professor, Moroccan Dentist and running against German, Montenegrin and Norwegian medical students (just to name a few). In addition to this, all health-care professionals (not just sport and exercise physicians) world-wide can promote exercise to patients – and hopefully all the specialities who competed at Medigames will be more inclined to promote exercise now.

I’m glad I discovered this world in my final year of university, and I’m looking forward to my next Medigames experience!

See you next year!

Portugal is welcoming the 41st Medigames on 13th – 20th June 2020. I hope many more students and professionals attend and have the same great experiences as I have had. Espero ver-vos a todos no próximo ano!

📩 ,

Shona Kohlhardt @ShonaKohlhardt is a foundation year one doctor, and the Northern Representative for USEMS. She participated in her first Medigames (swimming and athletics) this year in Budva. From Medigames she took home seven medals for Great Britain (one gold, four silver and two bronze), new friends and more SEM knowledge. She is now looking forward to next year’s Medigames and hopes to see more medical students there, and to create the first women’s football team at Medigames! She’s currently helping to organise the USEMS annual conference with fresh inspiration from Medigames. Feel free to contact her on twitter or by email,

Tej Pandya @PandyaTej is a medical student at the University of Manchester and co-ordinator of a new BJSM blog series aimed at undergraduates and recently qualified doctors. If you wish to contribute, please email him at

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