Researchers uncover methods to quantify the yips and golfer's cramp

July 19, 2018, Mayo Clinic
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Almost every golfer knows the feeling. Minutes after a picture-perfect drive down the fairway, a cascade of inexplicable missed putts leads to a disappointing triple bogey.

Golfers' lapses in play sometimes are blamed on a mysterious twitching condition called "the yips." But are yips physical or psychological? In a new Mayo Clinic study, published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers combined multiple methods to quantify golfers' yips and identify those with a neurological cause.

"These findings are important because they could offer athletes with a type of yips called 'dystonia,' or 'golfer's cramp,' improved treatment options," says Charles Adler, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist and the study's lead author. "Previously, there was no way to identify those with golfer's cramp using quantitative methods."

The yips is a disorder in which golfers complain of an involuntary movement—a twitch, a jerk, a flinch—at the time they putt or even when they chip. This interferes with their ability to perform that activity.

The study examined 27 golfers who all appeared to have the yips before the study. Researchers from Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University videotaped subjects putting 10 times with both hands and 10 putts with the right hand only, with each attempt 10 feet away from the hole. They collected data on wrist and arm movements, putter movements, and whether there was co-contracting muscle activation in the forearm muscles.

When reviewing video of the putts, researchers noted that five golfers had what appeared to be a neurologic cause for their 's cramp. These five golfers had greater acceleration of wrist and arm movement, as well as much more variability in wrist acceleration and rotation.

Nine of the other golfers the researchers examined also had the yips, but their conditions did not appear to be neurologic in nature (not dystonic). The remaining 13 golfers did not experience any yips during their putts. The golfers with a neurologic cause had more putts with the yips and co-contraction with two hands. They also had no change with the right hand only. In contrast, the other golfers had much fewer putts with the yips and co-contraction with two hands. This was followed by a marked increase in the yips and co-contractions when putting right only.

"More research in this arena is needed, but we are encouraged by our findings," Dr. Adler says. "Hopefully, specific will emerge that can help people overcome the yips in golf and other activities."

Explore further: World's first sport psychology encyclopaedia addresses athlete burnout

Related Stories

World's first sport psychology encyclopaedia addresses athlete burnout

June 9, 2014
Why athletes suffer 'burnout' to better understanding how sport builds character and addressing the notorious golfers' 'yips' are just some of the subjects tackled in the world's first encyclopaedia of sport psychology.

"Don't talk about golf"—how caddies help elite golfers stay in the zone

July 16, 2015
The support offered by caddies can help elite golfers stay 'in the zone' even under the pressure of major championships, new research has revealed.

Golfing like a pro is all in your head

July 27, 2012
When it comes to golf, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect – but perfect practice might.

Recommended for you

US drug overdose deaths surge amid fentanyl scourge

August 16, 2018
US drug overdose deaths surged to nearly 72,000 last year, as addicts increasingly turn to extremely powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl as the supply of prescription painkillers has tightened.

Phantom odors: One American in 15 smells odors that aren't there, study finds

August 16, 2018
Imagine the foul smell of an ash tray or burning hair. Now imagine if these kinds of smells were present in your life, but without a source. A new study finds that 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experiences ...

Widespread declines in life expectancy across high income countries coincide with rising young adult, midlife mortality

August 15, 2018
The ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States is a key contributor to the most recent declines in life expectancy, suggests a study published by The BMJ today.

Parental life span predicts daughters living to 90 without chronic disease or disability

August 15, 2018
Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that women whose mothers lived to at least age 90 were more likely to also live to 90, free of serious diseases and disabilities.

Diets high in vegetables and fish may lower risk of multiple sclerosis

August 15, 2018
People who consume a diet high in vegetables and fish may have a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis, new research led by Curtin University has found.

Can sleeping too much lead to an early death?

August 15, 2018
A recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association has led to headlines that will make you rethink your Saturday morning sleep in.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.