April 14, 2005 -- The yips -- a condition that makes some golfers unable to appropriately complete a golf stroke -- might be a movement disorder, according to a new study.
If so, it seems to be a task-specific problem seen with putting, says neurologist Charles Adler, MD, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Adler and colleagues studied 20 right-handed, middle-aged male golfers; half had the yips. The researchers used electromyography (EMG) to monitor nerve impulses in the men's muscles while putting, holding a putter, writing by hand, sitting, and extending their arms.
The men also rated their own golf strokes, trying 75 putts at 3, 6, and 8 feet on an artificial putting surface.
Problem Only Seen During Putting
The yips only occurred during putting. Half of the men with the yips had EMG-documented contractions in their wrist muscles right before the putter hit the ball, say researchers.
Those men tended to be older, have higher current and best previous golf handicaps, and have had the yips for fewer years than those who had the yips but did not have the contractions.
The men with the yips and contractions also tended to make fewer putts and had a greater degree of error in missing the putts.
The contractions were similar to those seen in writers' cramp or musicians' cramp, says Adler in a news release. Only two men in the yip group said they'd felt the yips in the experiment, but five of them showed EMG signs of the contractions, the researchers say.
Adler's team presented their results in Miami Beach, Fla., at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. They called for larger studies of the yips.