Former Football Star Mark Gastineau has announced he is battling not one but three separate conditions of the brain. He states he has dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. He attributes the disease to repeated concussions he suffered during his professional football career.
Gastineau believes the concussions were received due to improper techniques used in playing the sport. He played professional football with the New York Jets for 10 seasons. As a member of the New York Sack Exchange, he retired from football in 1988 with a total of 107.5 sacks. He was known for his hard-charging style, and he even admitted, “I led with my head all the time.”
The NFL has since imposed a Crown of the Helmet Rule. The new rule demands a 15 yard penalty on a runner or tackler “who initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet…” This new rule was implemented to hopefully reduce the risk of concussion injury, which can either cause the brain tissue to become strained, or the brain to strike against the wall of the skull.
In either scenario, once the concussion happens, it must be managed so that the player can heal. It is always best to prevent brain trauma rather than have to manage it. Dedicated players young and old may be less than truthful when questioned after an injury just so they can stay in the game. However, failure to take a concussion seriously is not without its consequences.
That is why Gastineau has made it his mission to speak out about his illness. He decided to begin sharing this information to warn mothers and fathers of the danger of playing the sport without knowledge of proper technique. He proudly endorses Heads-Up Football, which is a program geared toward the safety of youth in sports.
Heads-Up offers information to schools and sports programs with coaches and athletic directors. There are courses, programs, and certifications, as well as other resources to help young people stay safe while playing sports. The program also offers instruction in how to prevent illness related to playing in the heat, and how to react to sudden cardiac arrest. The program gives hope to parents who want their children to play sports, but fear for their safety.
Awareness is key in helping young people continue to play the sports they love. Despite his diagnoses, Gastineau says he has no regrets about playing football and will encourage kids to play as long as they learn how to stay safe.
Do you believe schools and sports programs are doing enough to keep kids safe while playing sports like football? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter: @lcarterwriter.