Mark Gastineau revealed during a radio interview Thursday that he’s suffering from “dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s” disease.
Though the former Jet linked his playing days to his illnesses, he doesn’t want young children to stop playing football. He just wants them to be better trained.
“It’s disturbing to the point where I want to get out and I want to help other kids and youths coming into the game,” the Jets’ all-time sack leader said on WOR, adding that he’s assisting USA Football with its “Heads Up Football” program, which promotes proper tackling techniques in an effort to reduce the number of football-related head injuries.
“I know that there’s techniques out there that if I would have had them, if I would have had the techniques out there that I’m teaching now to these kids, I know I wouldn’t have the results that I have now.”
Gastineau, 60, was one of the most talented defensive ends of his generation, earning five consecutive Pro Bowl selections. He was a member of the “New York Sack Exchange” during his 10-year NFL career and holds the team record for sacks in a season with 22.
Gastineau also got into trouble with the law on drug charges and repeated domestic violence. He has talked openly in recent years about turning around his life, with the help of his wife, and finding religion.
Gastineau, who said he received his test results about a year ago, wants his current health issues to be “a warning” for parents. But he said he has no regrets about playing football.
“I don’t want [my diagnosis] to overshadow the Heads Up Program,” said Gastineau, who added that he “led with my head all the time” when he played.
“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 sport that I think is going to be way more beneficial for them than if they didn’t have it in their lives.”
During the 30-minute interview, Gastineau said he would allow his child to play football only “because of this USAFootball.com. 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.”