Former hard-hitting New York Jets star Mark Gastineau revealed in a Thursday night radio interview that he has been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Gastineau, now 60, was using the interview on 710 WOR Radio in New York to spread a message about safety in football. He was promoting USA Football's Heads Up Football program, aimed at making the game safer at all levels.
''When my results came back, I had dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. 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 said of the testing he had done about a year ago.
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His belief that it's tied to his playing days led him to speaking up.
''It's disturbing. 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,'' he said.
Gastineau finished his career -- which spanned from 1979-1988, all with the Jets -- with 107.5 sacks. But he says it wasn't just the violent collisions during games that caused damage.
From ESPN's transcript:
"I led with my head all the time," he 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."
Unlike some, Gastineau says his own health issues wouldn't make him leery of his own children playing. He says the Heads Up program promotes techniques that greatly reduce the dangers of playing football.
''I'm not going to say that I'm not going to let my child play when I know 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,'' he said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.