Yips are involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly in number of different sports. Athletes show sudden, unexplained loss of previous skills when they are trying to goal. Yips can affect people who play sports — such as golf, cricket, darts and baseball. It was once thought that the yips were always associated with performance anxiety. However, it now appears that some people have yips that are caused by a focal dystonia, which is a neurological dysfunction affecting specific muscles.'
Focal dystonia is a neurological condition that affects a muscle or group of muscles in a specific part of the body causing involuntary muscular contractions and abnormal postures. The cause of dystonia is not precisely understood. Misfiring of neurons in the sensorimotor cortex, a thin layer of neural tissue covering the brain is thought to cause contractions. The source of this misfiring may be a result of impaired inhibitory mechanisms during muscle contraction. When the brain tells a given muscle to contract, it simultaneously silences muscles that would oppose the intended movement. In dystonia, it appears that the ability of the brain to inhibit the surrounding muscles is impaired, leading to loss of selectivity.
Some people have found relief from the yips by changing the way they perform the affected task. For example, a right-handed golfer might try putting left-handed. The most common symptom associated with the yips is an involuntary muscle jerk, although some people experience tremors, twitches, spasms or freezing.
There is no cure for dystonia at this time, and although treatment of the disorder may be challenging, there are several available options. Anticholinergic drugs, such as Artane can be helpful in treating focal dystonia by affecting the transmission of messages from the brain to the muscles. Botulinum toxin injections may be used to compel the body to create new programs by blocking the nerve impulses to the contracting muscles. The injections temporarily weaken the muscle so that the spasm is reduced and a different wrist position is necessary to compensate for the relaxed muscle. The ultimate aim of treatment is to establish new sensory motor programs to accomplish the tasks required for playing. It might be possible by altering the position of putting or changing the hand or side of making the goal. Techniques such as relaxation, visualization or positive thinking can help reduce anxiety, increase concentration and ease fear of the yips.