NEW YORK — Former New York Jets sack-dancing star Mark Gastineau has been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, he told WOR Radio on Thursday.
The illnesses result from years of playing football, the 60-year-old Gastineau said during a radio interview Thursday night with Pete McCarthy on 710 WOR Radio in New York.
“It’s disturbing,” Gastineau said. “But it’s disturbing to the point where I want to get out and I want to help other youths and help other people coming into the game. Right now, I’m able to do it.”
The Jets’ career sacks leader, who was known for his entertaining dances after taking down quarterbacks from 1979-88, believes his conditions are largely related to his aggressive, hard-playing style.
“When my results came back, I had dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Gastineau said. “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.”
Gastineau was promoting USA Football’s Heads Up Football program, which focuses on making the game safer. The former defensive end says the techniques the program teaches kids now could have helped prevent his health issues.
He adds that he wants his situation to serve as a “warning” to parents, but wouldn’t trade his experiences in the NFL “for anything.”