Ex-Jets Mark Gastineau: Diagnosed With Dementia, Alzheimer’s And Parkinson’s

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(CBS Sports) — Mark Gastineau’s NFL career spanned 10 seasons, all with the Jets, where he was a member of the New York Sack Exchange.

He retired in 1988 with 107.5 sacks, including 22 during the 1984 season.u, who made three All-Pro teams and five Pro Bowls, spent 10 years with the Jets after being selected in the second round of the 1979 NFL draft.

Known for his relentless motor and hard-charging style, Gastineau, now 60, says his health-related issues are largely related to how he played the game.

“When my results came back, I had dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Gastineau said Thursday (Jan 19) on 710 WOR Radio. “Those were three things that I have. … It’s something that I want every player that goes out and plays to be protected in the best way they can be protected.

“I know that there’s techniques out there that if I would have had ’em, if I would have had the techniques out there that I’m teaching now to these kids, I know I would not be probably … I know I wouldn’t have the results that I have now,” he said on the radio.

He added: “I led with my head all the time.”

Gastineau said he was diagnosed about a year ago.

“You know, my first reaction was that I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it,” he told the New York Daily News in a phone interview Thursday night. “My second reaction was how can I help other people coming in to the NFL? That’s what it’s all about.”

“The only reason I would allow my child to play is because of this USAFootball.com,” he said. “I would not allow my child to play if I did not have this Heads Up Football. There’s no way in the world. You cannot expect your child to not be injured if you do not enter this program. If a high school doesn’t have this program, there should not be a program.”

Gastineau has been an ambassador for USA Football for several years.

“I don’t want (my diagnosis) to over shadow the Heads Up Program,” he continued. “I want it to be a warning to mothers and fathers to be able to put their kids in the safe places to be able to carry on a team sports that I think is going to be way more beneficial for them than if they didn’t have it in their lives.”