Mark Gastineau opened up about his serious neurological diseases, which he believes resulted from traumatic brain injuries sustained during his 10-year NFL career, in an uncomfortable interview with WOR radio on Thursday, January 19. Listen to what he said in the clip above.
“When my results came back, I had dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's,” the former New York Jets defensive end, 60, said. “Those are three things that I have.”
He explained that he was diagnosed about a year ago, and claims that it’s connected to his tackling technique and playing style. “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,” he 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 played with the Jets from 1979 until he abruptly retired in 1988, and he’s still the team’s all-time sack leader. After his football career ended, he became a professional boxer and fought in 17 professional fights.
While many have called football fundamentally unsafe in recent years (a subject explored in the Will Smith film Concussion), the ex-athlete believes it is a safe sport for kids to play — as long as they are educated on proper tackling techniques. That’s why he’s working with USA Football’s Heads Up Football, a program that teaches players and coaches safety protocol. “I led with my head all the time,” Gastineau said. "Do you remember Marvin Powell? He was one of the best linemen in the NFL. He and I used to have wars [in practice]. … People would come and gather round because when we hit each other, I mean, you would hear pops, like a shotgun going off.”
Despite his health issues, he has no regrets about his time in the NFL. “I am so happy that I went through the times, the trials and things I went through in the NFL. I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” he said.
He is currently married to JoAnn Gastineau. He has two children from previous relationships: Brittny Gastineau (Kim Kardashian’s best friend), who he shares with his ex-wife Lisa Gastineau, and Killian Marcus Gastineau, who he shares with ex-girlfriend, actress Brigitte Nielsen. Brittny and Lisa stared in the E! reality series, The Gastineau Girls, for two seasons from 2005 to 2006.
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