What is Yips?

Yips is a term used to describe difficulties with motor skills in athletes. It is most associated with a golfers’ loss of wrist coordination when putting the ball but the problem is not only relevant for golfers.

The yips can be described as significant and sometimes sudden weakness in the ability to do something that otherwise is a regular part of the athlete’s sport. As mentioned, yips are not just limited to golf: the issue has commonly been associated with several baseball, tennis and cricket players, and often results in ends to careers.

The term yips has also crossed over from sports into repetitive stress injuries from occupations. People can experience the same symptoms but they are called something else other than yips.

What are the Symptoms of Yips?

Yips manifest as muscle spasms and twitches. Sometimes those spasms can be very short while others can persist for slightly longer periods and reoccur within short successive periods.

Yips Causes

Yips is an involuntary spasm that occurs in the wrists. It most noticeably manifests itself in people who perform functions that call these muscles into play such as athletes, particularly baseball players and golfers.

Others that it affects are those who play darts and other throwing sports. It is because of this that people for many years considered it a form of anxiety disorder that manifests itself as nervous tension.

Now, however, most consider it a form of focal dystonia, which is a neurological problem that affects certain muscles of the body. Treating this as the particular cause of the problem seems to produce better results rather than the specific application. As a result, there is more attention paid today to the specific muscles affected, as opposed to the specific activity being performed. With this approach, treatment is much more effective and relief much longer lasting.

How is Yips Treated?

No specific treatment has been identified to help with yips. Experts in sports medicine may recommend change of equipment, or changes in the grip while using particular equipment. Something as simple as a grip change could help alleviate any areas where there was some overuse, and train other muscles to compensate for the overuse of others.

Physical therapy may be prescribed in order to rehabilitate and strengthen any muscles that may have been overused and strained.

Yips Prevention

Whereas once the treatment and prevention of Yips was primarily physical in nature, today the treatment is a combination of physical and psychological. Many physicians treat and prevent Yips with biofeedback, acupuncture, and others.

A major method of treatment and prevention, however, is by having sufferers perform tasks in a different manner than what they are accustomed to, for example making a golfer putt left-handed when they would normally play with their right. One preventive measure that has been popular in the past, but is now largely discredited, is wrapping. Using an ace bandage to wrap an affected wrist has been shown to have little or no benefit in helping to prevent Yips. Even icing of the affected wrist has been discredited as an effective treatment and preventive measure for Yips.

Regardless, anyone who suffers from the problem should consult their physician for help since, with the right treatment, relief can be effective.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
September 08, 2017