Former Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau said during a radio interview with WOR that he’s been diagnosed with multiple brain problems, which he traces back to his days in football.
“When my results came back, I had dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Gastineau said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News. “Those were three things that I have.”
The 60-year-old Gastinueau traced the illnesses back to his days in the NFL. He played 10 seasons with the Jets, registering 74.0 sacks, with 41.0 of those coming in 1983 and 1984. He also boxed professionally after leaving football.
And while he said football was the beginning of his problems (“I led with my head all the time,” he said) he also wanted to use his plight to educate others.
“You know, my first reaction was that I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it,” Gastineau said. “My second reaction was how can I help other people coming in to the NFL? That’s what it’s all about. . . .
“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. ‘
Gastineau serves as an ambassador for USA Football, and said the Heads Up Football program was a way to protect future generations of players.
“I don’t want [my diagnosis] to over shadow the Heads Up Program,” he said. “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.”
While Gastineau’s diagnosis is obviously terrible news, he wants to use his platform to make the game safer. Whether the moms who hear his message are able to separate the former from the latter might be a more difficult sell.