Mark Gastineau, even with a terrible medical diagnosis that he believes comes from playing football, made it clear that he wouldn’t change anything about playing in the NFL.
But the former New York Jets legend wants to make the game safer.
Gastineau, in an interview with 710 WOR Radio in New York as part of USA Football’s “Heads Up Football,” said he has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It’s always hard to say if football contributed to that, but it’s an easy connection to make.
“I don’t want (my health) to overpower or overshadow the “Heads Up” program, 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,” Gastineau said.
Gastineau said he thinks kids should still play football, but they should play with the proper technique. He said he thinks the proper techniques could have saved his health.
“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,” Gastineau said. “There’s techniques out there that if I would have had them, I know that I wouldn’t have the results that I have now.”
Gastineau was one of the most famous players the NFL had in the 1980s. He was brash and dominant. He had 19 sacks in 1983 and 22 sacks in 1984, which set an NFL single-season record that Michael Strahan broke in 2001. Gastineau punctuated many of his 74 career sacks with his famed “sack dance.”
Gastineau was controversial as a player and had a history with drugs, but WOR said Gastineau has cleaned up his life and is a regular in church.
Although Gastineau didn’t have an easy road, during his career or now with his health issues, he told WOR Radio he has no regrets.
“I am so happy that I went through the times, the trials and things I went through in the NFL,” Gastineau said. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
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