As part the New York Jets, Mark Gastineau was a defensive beast. Sadly, the member of the infamous ‘New York Sack Exchange’ revealed the terrible consequences of a hard-hitting football career, as Mark’s been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease!
The New York Jets player revealed his health issues during a 30-minute interview with Pete McCarthy on WOR Radio on Jan. 19, according to the Daily Mail. “When my results came back,” Mark Gastineau, 60, said, “I had dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s [disease.] Those were three things that I have. “
“You know, my first reaction was that I didn’t believe it,” he would later tell The New York Daily News. “I couldn’t believe it. My second reaction was how can I help other people coming in to the NFL? That’s what it’s all about.”
Yes, Mark – who played with the Jets for 10 years – said he wasn’t trying to get any sympathy. Instead, he wanted to draw attention to his work with USA Football as part of the “Heads UP Football” campaign. The organization seeks to reduce concussions, ensure equipment is properly used and that player safety is overall improved.
“I don’t want (my diagnosis) to overpower or overshadow 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 to safe places to be able to carry on a team sport that I think is going to be way far beneficial to them then if they didn’t have that in their lives.”
The modern football era is drastically different from Mark’s heyday. He played with the Jets from 1979 to 1988. The five-time Prow Bowler racked up 107 sacks in his first 100 starts as a player, making his a feared defensive beast. However, he knows that his time on the gridiron resulted in his devastating diagnosis.
“I led with me head all the time,” he said. “ 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.”
Still, Mark doesn’t think that football should be overall banned. In fact, he allows his child to suit up and play – thanks to the work of the Heads Up Football program. “I would not allow my child to play if I did not have this Heads Up Football… 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.” Here’s hoping more follow Mark’s words as he works to make football safer for everyone.
Do you think that Mark’s diagnosis will make people think twice about playing football, HollywoodLifers? Do you think that the game can be safely played?