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

Children of problem drinkers more likely to marry someone with a drinking problem: study

December 18, 2018
Children of parents who have alcohol use disorder are more likely to get married under the age of 25, less likely to get married later in life, and more likely to marry a person who has alcohol use disorder themselves, according ...

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

Study shows magnesium optimizes vitamin D status

December 14, 2018
A randomized trial by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers indicates that magnesium optimizes vitamin D status, raising it in people with deficient levels and lowering it in people with high levels.

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

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.