What are the yips? The term may have been popularized by former golf player Tommy Armour
The yips are involuntary wrist spasms experienced most commonly by golfers when trying to putt and chip or when in full swing. Although the origin of the term is unclear, “yips” may have been popularized by former golf player and coach Tommy Armour. The yips can also affect those who play sports such as baseball, cricket, bowling, archery, or darts.
At one time, the yips were thought to be associated with performance anxiety. However, experts now believe that the yips may be due to a neurological condition that affects specific muscles.
Involuntary muscle jerks can also affect people who engage in activities such as writing, typing, or playing a musical instrument, although the condition in these cases is often called writer’s dystonia or musician’s dystonia instead of the yips. Healthcare professionals whose work involves fine motor skills, such as dentists and surgeons, are also at risk of developing task-specific dystonia.
What are the symptoms of the yips?
Common symptoms of the yips include:
- Muscle jerks
- Shakes or tremors
- Feeling frozen or locked
What causes the yips?
Causes of the yips may include:
- Focal dystonia: Neurological condition that involves involuntary spasms, affecting one body part. It may be characterized by repetitive moments.
- Performance anxiety: Extreme anxiety about performance (athletic or otherwise). The anxiety could be intense enough to disturb your ability to perform.
- Combination of neurological issues and anxiety: Some people may have a combination of focal dystonia and performance anxiety that causes the yips. Stress and anxiety can also exacerbate focal dystonia.
Factors that may increase the risk of developing the yips include:
- Advanced age
- More experience in playing golf or another activity
- Tournament play
- Extreme anxiety
- Perfectionistic tendencies
Are there any complications of the yips?
Most people with focal dystonia do not go on to develop a severe neurological condition. Currently, no studies indicate that the yips are associated with complications.
However, the yips can be devastating for a professional or recreational athlete. Professional athletes may suffer huge financial losses due to their inability to perform.
How are the yips treated?
Initial treatment for the yips may involve changing your technique or equipment. For example, you can try the following to treat the condition:
- Adjust the way you hold your putter
- Change your grip to use different muscles
- Use a different putter such as a longer putter or a putter with a special grip
Other treatment options include:
- Botox injections: These injections are given into the hyperactive muscles to relieve muscle contractions and alleviate muscle jerks.
- Behavioral therapy: Relaxation, visualization, or positive thinking techniques may help control symptoms. These techniques help to reduce anxiety, increase concentration, and may help athletes overcome confidence issues.