Mark Gastineau diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons

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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.

61 responses to “Mark Gastineau diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons

  1. Much sympathy for Mark. I am confused, honestly. I was under the impression that Alzheimer’s was genetic – it is a protein build up on the brain. I held a regular and a an Alzheimer’s brain while in college. The Alzheimer’s brain had all the grooves or crevices filled in by the protein.. It functions like a corroded battery, struggling to pass an electronic charge. I don’t understand how football could cause that. Nevertheless, a cautionary tale about football and heads-up tackling.

  2. Still don’t quite understand why the NFL gets all the liability when these guys played football their entire lives. Most of these players played football since they were five years old yet the reason their brains are messed up is solely because of those last 5 to 8 years of their careers in the NFL? What about the 10-15 years of park ball, junior high, high school, and college?

  3. Football is certainly a brain-risk sport. But…boxing? It’s a sport based on serial concussion the other guy. It was be a strange fluke for someone to box and NOT come out with major brain issues.

  4. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, going back to leather helmets will cure the sport of the head injuries. These silly rules are lipstick on a pig. Getting serious about testing for HGH wouldn’t hurt either.

  5. Just rub some dirt on it, get back out there Tiger.
    God bless all those players from that era. Barbarians they were.

  6. Anyone who doubts the heavy price that football can extract from a person needs to find some film on former Colt TE, John Mackey, and see what his life was reduced to.

  7. This is sad news, and these are heartbreaking diseases. 2 of those 3 go hand in hand (dementia and Alzheimer’s). And all of them are very common in the general public. Are there any studies to show if these are more common in football players than athletes in general, or the general public? I’m just curious how the source can so surely be football when we know so very little about what causes the syndromes.

  8. A slow death sentence if there ever was one. Pray for Mark & his family. My mother had Alzheimer’s my father Parkinson’s and both had dementia. I think about that everyday.

  9. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. So unless he’s saying he had another form of dementia (vascular, Dementia with Lewy bodies), he’s being redundant.

    Generally, you can’t have both Parkinson’s and Dementia with Lewy bodies. People with Parkinson’s for more than a year who then become demented are seen as having Parkinsonian Dementia, while those who have Parkinson’s for less than a year then become demented are seen as having Dementia with Lewy bodies.

  10. Not always the easiest guy to root for but he still she be the single season sack record holder. Brett Favre was nice enough to take a dive for Strahan.

  11. Think about this when the next dope complains about rule changes to lessen the head injuries and hits on vulnerable players.

  12. The price these men pay to have played this game… Unreal.

    I was never a Jets fan and I grew up loving to hate Gastineau. Good luck Mark and take care of yourself.

  13. The 60-year-old Gastinueau traced the illnesses back to his days in the NFL

    Dont blame all your problems on football …. you had 17 professional boxing matches after you retired from football …

  14. “He also boxed professionally after leaving football.”

    How dumb can you be?
    That kicks down the sympathy level a few notches.

  15. lostsok says:
    Jan 20, 2017 6:40 AM
    Football is certainly a brain-risk sport. But…boxing? It’s a sport based on serial concussion the other guy. It was be a strange fluke for someone to box and NOT come out with major brain issues.



    After a career of playing the most wearing sport in the world, enduring multiple hits to all parts of your body and your head, to then follow it up with a sport where its a contest of who can take the most hits in the head?

    Really good decision making there Mark.

  16. He also had more cash go through his hands then a dozen average Joes, all Iam saying is there always is a trade off when it comes to earning a buck ! What most of these guys are not saying in public because of litigation is that they would all do it over again as too escape being the average Joe !

  17. My father developed moderate Alzheimer’s around age 64. He did not play football. Horrible disease.

    I fear Hollywood, lawyers and the victim/grievance culture are promoting something we are not sure is occuring. The only thing I’m sure is happening is that the NFL is dead sport walking.

  18. If he hadn’t also spent 6yrs pro-boxing and a great many years abusing drugs, would he have these problems? I suspect not.

    He was a very impressive on the field, especially 1980-85 period, but seen as “typically selfish” by team-mates (who will no doubt say nice things now). And after footbal he later spent multiple spells in prison for domestic abuse, drugs and parole violations. And it later emerged many of his fights (15-2 as a pro) were fixed. I’ve little sympathy for the guy, sorry, especially if he is now blaming it all on football.

  19. That’s such sad news and I hope he will get early treatment . As bad as it is, places like the Barrows Neurological Institute in Phoenix are making great advances in the treatment of these terrible diseases and that’s where Muhammed Ali went for treatment.
    Many things play into to these diseases besides head trauma, like genetics and diet and hopefully he will find a treatment course that will help him and his family live with the disease as best they can.
    I do think the NFL, has created a public panic about the dangers of head traumas when that’s only a small part of the picture. Baby boomers grew up playing contact sports without helmets, pads or any protective gear and many are still fully functioning and sharp in their 70’s, 80’s and beyond, like Dick LeBeau and Tom Moore, etc.
    Best wishes to Mark and his family in finding the treatment and support they need.

  20. Who the hell has ever been taught to lead with their head when tackling? In all my years being around youth and high school football I’ve never heard this.

    I was taught the same correct proper tackling technique at every level. Target the mid-section/hips/thighs area, drive your shoulder into the ball carrier, wrap and bring down. After a few drills this just becomes automatic.

    It’s not only smart, but hands down the most effective way to tackle. I don’t know who the hell these idiots are that are telling people to lead with their heads.

  21. Jan 20, 2017 8:59 AM
    im sure steroids played a part too…

    Except for the fact that there is zero evidence, peer reviewed or anecdotal, that anabolic steroids cause brain disease of ANY kind. There is however a growing amount of evidence on testosterone and the positive benefits on bipolar disorder and generalized “brain fog.”

    I know that will go over the heads of morbidly obese couch surfers shoveling garbage down their ever expanding theoats while thinking they sound clever attributing anything an athlete ever has happen to “them steroids.”

  22. you get hit in the head more in boxing and mma, why does football seem to have more of the cry babies in it

  23. Let’s not forget, Gastineau was also a huge PED user. Who knows how much of the problems he’s facing now have their roots in that?

  24. Sickening news. Unfortunately, you can’t play football without damaging your brain. We ALL know it and shouldn’t pretend there is a safe way to play football. There isn’t.

  25. Because he was a Jets player I really never liked him (along with his sack dance). However…..that’s about playing football.

    I don’t wish these conditions on anybody.

    Best wishes Mark!

  26. I would expect that there will be signs of CTE in his brain when he has passed away and donated that brain to science.

    But I have to echo the thought that Alzheimer’s has nothing to do with externally induced brain damage. Which makes me wonder if Gastineau is merely getting it wrong, considering his mind. Or if fate dealt him the worst deal.

  27. I imagine the dementia is the CTE part of the diagnosis. Not sure how Parkinsons and Alzheimers fit into an equation of getting your head beat in on a daily basis since so many people who don’t get their heads beat in daily are affected by the disease.

    That said, so many comments on here blow off his NFL career and blame his boxing for his brain problems. If that’s the case, it must be that every NFL player diagnosed with CTE must have a second career in boxing.

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