Overview

The yips are involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt. However, the yips can also affect people who play other sports — such as cricket, darts and baseball.

It was once thought that the yips were always associated with performance anxiety. However, it now appears that some people have the yips due to a neurological condition affecting specific muscles (focal dystonia).

Changing the way you perform the affected task might help you find relief from the yips. For example, a right-handed golfer might try putting left-handed.

Symptoms

The most common symptom associated with the yips is an involuntary muscle jerk, although some people experience tremors, twitches, spasms or freezing.

Causes

In some people, the yips are a type of focal dystonia, a condition that causes involuntary muscle contractions during a specific task. It's most likely related to overuse of a certain set of muscles, similar to writer's cramp. Anxiety worsens the effect.

Some athletes become so anxious and self-focused — overthinking to the point of distraction — that their ability to execute a skill, such as putting, is impaired. "Choking" is an extreme form of performance anxiety that may compromise a golfer's or any athlete's game.

Risk factors

The yips tend to be associated with:

  • Older age
  • More experience playing golf
  • Tournament play

April 27, 2018
References
  1. Conidi F. Some unusual sports-related neurologic conditions. Continuum. 2014;20:1645.
  2. Dhungana S, et al. Yips and other movement disorders in golfers. Movement Disorders. 2013;28:576.
  3. Berstein CJ, et al. Behavioural interventions for people living with adult-onset primary dystonia: A systematic review. BMC Neurology. 2016;16:1. https://bmcneurol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12883-016-0562-y. Accessed Feb. 2, 2018.

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