NEW YORK — Another Balakian is making news; a new website has been launched to chart the history of sports medicine pioneer and inventor of electrolyte-rich beverages for athletes, Dr. Gerard Balakian.
The web site — gerardbalakianmd.com — charts the history of the groundbreaking invention of Sportade, the electrolyte replenishment drink that Balakian invented in 1965. His invention, along with Gator Ade (in the same year), ushered in the age of electrolyte sports beverages.
Alarmed by the growing number of deaths among athletes, especially football players who were having heat stroke, in some cases resulting in death, Balakian, in 1965 (the year his son Peter began playing high school football), began research on electrolyte replenishment. Working at home on his kitchen table, at times with the aid of his wife Arax, he developed what he called “an isotonic, thirst quenching beverage” and trademarked it: Sportade.
Dr. Balakian was well qualified to study heat stroke and electrolytes. As an attending physician who specialized in internal medicine at Englewood Hospital in Englewood, New Jersey, he was Chairman of the Pharmacy Committee, Coordinator in the Adverse Drug Reaction Program of the FDA, and Chairman of the Institutional Review Committee on Investigational Drugs.
Dr. Balakian designed Sportade as an isotonic thirst quenching drink to replenish various minerals such as potassium and sodium that are lost by athletes during physical exertion. By 1968, Balakian had licensed Sportade to Becton-Dickinson, the pharmaceutical and medical supply company based in Rutherford, NJ. Sportade quickly became a sensation, and along with Gator Ade created the new age in electrolytes sports medicine. Sportade received extensive media coverage in The New York Times, (including a feature in the Sunday Sports Section of the New York Times, ( 10/8/67), and Newsweek, World Tennis Magazine, Soft Drinks Review, The Medical Times, and others.
Balakian appeared on NBC television. His articles and essays on electrolyte replenishment had an impact on the growing awareness of this new field as his feature essay in The Medical Times indicated. Balakian lectured extensively at universities and medical forums across America and spoke at the World Congress of Sports Medicine at Oxford University in 1970.
From 1968 to the mid 1970s Sportade was well received in the athletic world. Among its first users were college football teams including Notre Dame, USC, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Stanford, Rutgers, Dartmouth, Bucknell, as well as high schools around the country. In the NFL the New York Jets and the New York Giants were among the first teams to use Sportade and Balakian conducted tests on the New York Giants during their summer training sessions in 1966 and 67, which aided his conclusions about the effectiveness of Sportade. The Mount Kenya Safari Club, the 1968 US Olympic tennis team, NBC News in Saigon, tennis champion Renee Lacoste were also among its first users. Sportade was used at the Olympics in 1968, and in 1969 it was the featured drink at the U.S. Tennis Open. It was registered in foreign countries including Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
The web site includes TV footage from NBC, and print media coverage, including a New York Times feature, some of his important research articles, product images and advertising, and a history of his research and invention.