The 'yips' in golf: A continuum between a focal dystonia and choking

Aynsley M. Smith, Charles H. Adler, Debbie Crews, Robert E. Wharen, Edward R. Laskowski, Kelly Barnes, Carolyn Valone Bell, Dave Pelz, Ruth D. Brennan, Jay Smith, Matthew C. Sorenson, Kenton R. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

55 Scopus citations

Abstract

The definition of the 'yips' has evolved over time. It is defined as a motor phenomenon of involuntary movements affecting golfers. In this paper, we have extended the definition to encompass a continuum from the neurologic disorder of dystonia to the psychologic disorder of choking. In many golfers, the pathophysiology of the 'yips' is believed to be an acquired deterioration in the function of motor pathways (e.g. those involving the basal ganglia) which are exacerbated when a threshold of high stress and physiologic arousal is exceeded. In other golfers, the 'yips' seems to result from severe performance anxiety. Physically, the 'yips' is manifested by symptoms of jerks, tremors or freezing in the hands and forearms. These symptoms can result in: (i) a poor quality of golf performance (adds 4.9 strokes per 18 holes); (ii) prompt use of alcohol and β-blockers; and (iii) contribute to attrition in golf. Golfers with the 'yips' average 75 rounds per year, although many 'yips'-affected golfers decrease their playing time or quit to avoid exposure to this embarrassing problem. While more investigation is needed to determine the cause of the 'yips', this review article summarises and organises the available research. A small study included in this paper describes the 'yips' phenomenon from the subjective experience of 'yips'-affected golfers. The subjective experience (n = 72) provides preliminary support for the hypothesis suggesting that the 'yips' is on a continuum. Based on the subjective definitions of 72 'yips'-affected golfers, the 'yips' was differentiated into type I (dystonia) and type II (choking). A theoretical model provides a guide for future research on golfers with either type I or type II 'yips'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-31
Number of pages19
JournalSports Medicine
Volume33
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 21 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The 'yips' in golf: A continuum between a focal dystonia and choking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Smith, A. M., Adler, C. H., Crews, D., Wharen, R. E., Laskowski, E. R., Barnes, K., Bell, C. V., Pelz, D., Brennan, R. D., Smith, J., Sorenson, M. C., & Kaufman, K. R. (2003). The 'yips' in golf: A continuum between a focal dystonia and choking. Sports Medicine, 33(1), 13-31. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333010-00002