Going Pro: College of Dentistry Alumni Who Protect the Smiles of Professional Athletes
Professional athletes rely on a host of health professionals to—literally—keep them in the game.
Bruce C. Baloy ’76 DDS and Herb Postle ’86 DDS are among several College of Dentistry alumni who have been fortunate enough to be able to combine their dental expertise with their love of sports to treat Columbus’ top athletes. Dr. Baloy is the team dentist for the Columbus Blue Jackets National Hockey League team and Dr. Postle serves as team dentist for the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team.
Although both doctors were avid sports fans before getting involved with professional athletes, neither believed that some day they would serve as team dentists. Now, though, their team dentist designation has become part of what they enjoy about their profession, and it’s definitely a conversation-starter. When people hear that Dr. Baloy works with the Blue Jackets, he always gets the same reaction: “Wow! You must be busy!”
“That reputation is well-earned,” he said, laughing. “We’ve had some pretty horrific injuries. In fact, we probably have more facial trauma in our sport than others.” Dr. Baloy is part of a team that includes an oral surgeon and general physician, and all attend every home game to care for the Blue Jackets as well as players from visiting teams.
“We’ve had everything from lost teeth to broken jaws,” he said. “Everyone thinks it’s the puck that gets them, but the vast majority of injuries come from the stick. I guess working with my kids’ lacrosse teams prepared me for that!”
The dental care Dr. Baloy provides extends well beyond the ice. He sees all of the Blue Jackets players in his private practice for ongoing preventative care. The players fall into the age group for whom regular dental care may not be a priority. In addition, some players haven’t had access to good dental care in their home countries.
Only about half of the players are from the U.S., the rest from Europe or Canada. “They live here during the season, and good dental care is part of keeping them healthy and in peak physical shape for the games,” said Dr. Baloy.
He and the medical team are particularly busy with the Blue Jackets at the beginning of the season, ensuring that each player is ready for their grueling 80-game schedule. Head-to-toe physicals at a nearby medical facility include a thorough dental exam and treatment, if necessary. Impressions are made for custom mouth guards – and the replacements they’ll inevitably need throughout the season. “Amazingly, though, they don’t all wear them,” Dr. Baloy said. “It’s not mandated.”
Following an injury on the ice, especially a traumatic one, the oral surgeon usually attends to the player – whether that player is a Blue Jacket or a member of the opposing team. Then Dr. Baloy often sees them in the office the next day. With the team’s demanding travel schedule, the player has only a small window to be seen. “We have to get them in fairly quickly so that they can get on to the next game.”
“I’ve been able to do a little bit of everything in my career,” said Dr. Baloy, who served as a Naval dentist before going into private practice, and eventually began volunteering his services for his children’s sports teams. “Working with the Blue Jackets and getting to know the players has been a tremendously rewarding part of that career,” he added.
For Dr. Postle, the relationships he’s developed with Columbus Crew players and their families, as well as dentists from the opposing teams, have been the most rewarding part of his involvement with the major league sport.
“They’re just the nicest bunch of guys you could ever meet,” he said. “And it’s amazing how many of them have ended up back here in Columbus. It’s a great place to raise their families, and I get to see a lot of Crew families as patients on an ongoing basis.”
Like Dr. Baloy, Dr. Postle is part of a larger team that serves the team, and attends games, although not every one. “Mostly, our cases aren’t immediate situations,” he said. “We don’t get nearly as many injuries on the field in soccer as they get in hockey.”
Because he has been with the Crew since their inaugural season in 1996, though, he has seen his share of traumatic incidents. “My job is more to keep (the athletes) healthy and strong, so that they can be on the field and in good shape to play.”
The Crew was one of the first professional soccer clubs created after the MLS organization was established in 1993 as part of the U.S.’s successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Dr. Postle was right at home with the Crew, as they played their first games at Ohio Stadium before opening the country’s first major-league stadium built specifically for soccer adjacent to the nearby Ohio Expo Center.
Although he was a sports fan prior to becoming involved with the Crew, Dr. Postle said he’s definitely learned more about the world’s most popular sport and became a fan very quickly. He especially enjoyed the 2014 FIFA World Cup, when excitement built through the country as the U.S. team advanced through the ranks.
Interestingly, both Dr. Baloy and Dr. Postle became involved with their respective teams through friends. As the Crew was assembling their first medical group in preparation for launching the team, the orthopedic surgeon who was hired – a friend of Dr. Postle’s – got in touch and connected him with the Crew’s management. He’s been part of the team ever since.
For Dr. Baloy, it was his hygienist’s husband, who worked as legal counsel for several professional sports teams. “He was actually the Blue Jackets’ first employee,” Dr. Baloy said. “When I saw that he’d been hired, I sent him a congratulatory note and said, ‘Nice job! P.S., you’re going to need a team dentist.’”