Ex-Jets great Mark Gastineau: Diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

Mark Gastineau's NFL career spanned 10 seasons, all with the Jets, where he was a member of the New York Sack Exchange. He retired in 1988 with 107.5 sacks, including 22 during the 1984 season.

Known for his relentless motor and hard-charging style, Gastineau, now 60, says his health-related issues are largely related to how he played the game.

"When my results came back, I had dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," Gastineau said Thursday on 710 WOR Radio. "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. ...

"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," he said on the radio.

He added: "I led with my head all the time."

Gastineau said he was diagnosed about a year ago.

"You know, my first reaction was that I didn't believe it. I couldn't believe it," he told the New York Daily News in a phone interview Thursday night. "My second reaction was how can I help other people coming in to the NFL? That's what it's all about."

Gastineau, now 60, says his health-related issues are largely related to how he played the game. Getty Images

So knowing what he knows, does Gastineau think kids should play football?

"The only reason I would allow my child to play is because of this USAFootball.com," he said. "I would not allow my child to play if I did not have this Heads Up Football. There's no way in the world. 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."

Gastineau has been an ambassador for USA Football for several years.

"I don't want (my diagnosis) to over shadow the Heads Up Program," he continued. "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."

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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