The yips, the baffling condition affecting a significant number of already anxious golfers during putting or chipping, may be a movement disorder and not the result of undue pressure to perform at the crucial moment of a stroke.
In fact, in some cases the affliction can be likened to writers’ or musicians’ cramps, according to Charles Adler, MD, PhD, neurologist and researcher at Mayo Clinic. His research on the yips was presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Toronto.
But research by Dr Adler and his colleagues at Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University suggests that in a subset of golfers, involuntary muscle contractions are to blame, resulting in what he calls "golfer’s cramp".
The annoying condition (sometimes described as "twitches" or "jerks") that can ruin an otherwise successful round of golf was often thought to be psychologic in nature.
In the study, 25 golfers who complained of the yips were compared with 25 who did not. The golfers were matched for age, gender and golf handicap. All were asked to perform putts of varying lengths on an outdoor putting green while the electrical activity in their muscles was measured. Wrist movements were measured using electromyography (electrodes placed on the skin of the forearms) and a video camera recorded their putting strokes. A CyberGlove, a wireless device with tracking sensors, was used to measure hand and finger movements.
Seventeen of the golfers exhibited involuntary movements during putting that were clearly visible to the researchers.
Analysis of the CyberGlove results revealed a significant increase in pronation/supination (rotation of the hand) in those golfers with yips and those without.
"Other hand movements of the golfers did not show significant differences," said Dr Adler. He stressed that golfer’s cramp should not be confirmed without observable involuntary movement of the hand and that golfer’s cramp likely only explains a subset of people who suffer from the yips.
"Further research is needed included trying to identify treatment options for these golfers", notes Dr Adler.
(Source: Mayo Clinic: Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology,Toronto: May 2010)