• By Jason Howland

Mayo Clinic Minute: Are the yips just nerves or something more?

August 1, 2018

Almost every golfer has experienced it. You're lined up on the green for that perfect putt, when an easy tap-in shot is foiled by a mysterious twitch. Golfers refer to it as "the yips." And researchers at Mayo Clinic believe they've found a neurological cause to explain some instances.

Jason Howland has more in this Mayo Clinic Minute.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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Drive for show. Putt for dough. But when lining up that winning shot, it can be a golfer's greatest fear: a sudden case of the yips.

"The yips is a description given by people who golf of a twitch, or a jerk or involuntary movement when usually putting," says Dr. Charles Adler, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

In many cases, the yips is thought to be psychological. A golfer under pressure experiencing performance anxiety is usually par for the course. But there are others that likely have a neurologic problem.

"We call it 'dystonia' or 'tremor.' It's an involuntary movement disorder," says Dr. Adler. "So only when performing a golf movement, such as moving the putter, does the involuntary movement come out."

Dr. Adler is teeing up the topic as lead author of a Mayo Clinic study on the yips, which could offer athletes improved treatment options.

"It's our belief that treatment is going to be different for people who have a neurologic cause and a nonneurologic cause."

Dr. Adler says more research is needed with the hope of finding specific treatment options to overcome the yips. And that would be a hole in one for every golfer on the green.

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