NEW YORK — Mark Gastineau is trying to help sack safety issues in football.

And the former New York Jets sack-dancing star wants to use himself as an example of the dangers of playing the game.

The 60-year-old Gastineau said during a radio interview Thursday night on 710 WOR Radio in New York that he was diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease about a year ago.

“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 issues are largely related to his 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 could have helped prevent his health issues.

“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,” Gastineau said, “I know that I wouldn’t have the results that I have now.”

Gastineau insisted he didn’t want his situation to “overshadow” what Heads Up Football can do to help young players continue to play the game – but safely.

“I want it to be a warning to mothers and fathers to be able to put their kids in safe places,” he said, “to be able to carry on a team sport that I think is going to be way far more beneficial for them than if they didn’t have that in their lives.”


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