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The yips is the loss of fine motor skills in athletes. The condition occurs suddenly and without apparent explanation, usually in mature athletes with years of experience. It is poorly understood and has no known treatment or therapy. Athletes affected by the yips sometimes recover their ability, which may require a change in technique. Many are forced to abandon their sport at the highest level.

The yips manifest themselves as sudden movements at crucial moments, and occur most often in sports in which athletes are required to perform a single precise and well-timed action such as golf and darts. The condition is also experienced by snooker players, bowlers in cricket and pitchers in baseball.

In golf[edit]

In golf, the yips is a movement disorder known to interfere with putting. The term yips is said to have been popularized by Tommy Armour—a golf champion and later golf teacher—to explain the difficulties that led him to abandon tournament play.[1] In describing the yips, golfers have used terms such as twitches, staggers, jitters and jerks. The yips affects between a quarter and a half of all mature golfers.[2] Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that 33% to 48% of all serious golfers have experienced the yips[citation needed]. Golfers who have played for more than 25 years appear most prone to the condition.[citation needed]

Although the exact cause of the yips has yet to be determined, one possibility is biochemical changes in the brain that accompany aging. Excessive use of the involved muscles and intense demands of coordination and concentration may exacerbate the problem. Giving up golf for a month sometimes helps. Focal dystonia has been mentioned as another possibility for the cause of yips.[3]

Professional golfers seriously afflicted by the yips include Pádraig Harrington, Bernhard Langer, Ben Hogan, Harry Vardon, Sam Snead, Ian Baker-Finch and Keegan Bradley, who missed a six-inch putt in the final round of the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship due to the condition (although he may also have been suffering from strabismus).[citation needed] At the 2015 Waste Management Open, golf commentator Nick Faldo suggested that Tiger Woods could be suffering from the yips. Jay Yarow from Business Insider commented after the 2014 Open that Woods has both the putting yips and the driver yips.[4]

Interventions seeking to treat the affliction have been few and far between. Some golfers have tried changing their putter or their grip or even switching hands. However, these strategies have provided only temporary relief.[citation needed]

In cricket[edit]

In cricket, the yips applies mostly to bowlers and seems predominantly to affect left-arm spinners.[citation needed] The affliction seems to involve bowlers having trouble releasing the ball at the end of their action.[citation needed] An example of this was Keith Medlycott, who having reached the England squad was forced to abandon the sport.[citation needed] Another player, Gavin Hamilton, having played a Test as an all-rounder, largely abandoned his right-arm medium pace bowling, following the yips.[5] He did not make another Test appearance, but has enjoyed a One Day International career for Scotland, predominantly as a specialist batsman. Collins Obuya was one of the stars of Kenya's 2003 World Cup—he gained a contract with Warwickshire on the back of it—but soon afterward his game fell apart when he developed the yips.[citation needed]

England cricket team sports psychologist Dr Mark Bawden suffered from the yips himself as a teenager.[6] He completed a PhD on the topic and has published a paper on the yips in the Journal of Sports Science.[7]

In baseball[edit]

In baseball, the yips usually manifests itself as a sudden inability to throw the baseball accurately. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steve Blass is an example; from 1964 to 1972, he was a dominant pitcher and All-Star; however, beginning in 1973, he suddenly lost his command, issuing 84 walks in ​88 23 innings pitched.[8] He retired in 1974 due to continued loss of his pitching ability. "Steve Blass disease" has been attributed to talented players—such as New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch or Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax—who also inexplicably seemed to lose their ability to throw the ball accurately.[9]

New York Mets catcher Mackey Sasser suffered the yips; he sometimes could not throw the ball back to the pitcher without tapping his mitt several times—San Francisco Giants outfielder Brett Butler once stole third base during a Sasser yip.[10][11] Sasser's problem became worse after a 1990 collision at home plate with Jim Presley of the Atlanta Braves, leading to a decrease in Sasser's playing time, and his release from the Seattle Mariners in 1994.[12] Mark Wohlers of the Atlanta Braves was called "the 1990s poster child for Steve Blass Syndrome."[13]

Jon Lester is also said to have suffered the yips on his pickoff move to first.[14] He did not throw to first at all in 2014, and struggled to make accurate throws early in 2015.

Pittsburgh Pirates minor league pitching prospect Hayden Hurst was so badly affected by the yips that he left baseball and went to the University of South Carolina to play football instead.[15] On April 26, 2018, he was drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, 25th overall, by the Baltimore Ravens.

ESPN featured a story about Luke Hagerty's comeback from the yips in 2019. He never played after being #1 pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 2002 draft.[16]

In other sports[edit]

The yips also affects players in other sports. Examples include Markelle Fultz[17] and Chuck Hayes’ respective free throw shots[18] in basketball and Guillermo Coria and Elena Dementieva struggling with serving in tennis.[19] In darts, the yips are known as dartitis, with five-time world champion Eric Bristow an example of a sufferer.[citation needed] In the National Football League (NFL), a normally reliable placekicker who starts struggling is also said to have the yips.[citation needed]

Stephen Hendry, seven times snooker World Champion, said after his loss to Mark Williams in the 2011 UK Championship that he had been suffering from the yips for ten years, and that the condition had affected his ability to cue through the ball, causing him great difficulty in regaining his old form.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

"The Yips" is the tenth episode in the third season of the television series How I Met Your Mother, in which ladies'-man Barney Stinson suddenly loses his ability to successfully pick up attractive women.

The character Dave Rose in Happy Endings suffers from the yips in the tenth episode of season three called "KickBall 2: The Kickening." [21]

The character Lisa Simpson in The Simpsons suffers from saxophone-playing yips in S29 E17 "Lisa Gets the Blues."

In an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm The Larry David Sandwich S5 E01 the doctor suffers from the yips while putting, causing Larry distress, fearing the doctor would be unable to perform surgery on Larry's father without getting the yips.

In Psych, "Shawn Gets the Yips" is the fifth episode of season four. After a cop bar is shot up in an apparent robbery, Shawn realizes the shooter was actually targeting a member of their softball team. Shawn is unable to bat on the department softball team.

During season two of the series Nip/Tuck plastic surgeon Sean McNamara suffers from yips.

Track five on the album "McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt" by English band 'Half Man Half Biscuit' is called "Yipps (My Baby Got The)" and references the condition and a number of prominent golfers.

In the manga and anime series The Prince of Tennis, the character Seiichi Yukimura's dominant tennis style induces yips in all of his opponents.

During episode five of the anime series Kaguya-sama: Love Is War the character Miyuki Shirogane attempts to learn a basic volleyball serve from his fellow student council member, Chika Fujiwara, and at one point questions whether he may suffer from the yips in order to mask his stark incompetency at the sport.

In House, MD season three, episode 21, Dr. Gregory House thinks that Dr. Eric Foreman has gotten the Yips from killing a patient in the previous episode. He briefly explains the condition and says that Dr. Foreman has lost his confidence. In his explanation he mentions, by name, Pittsburgh Pirates’ World Series champion Steve Blass as having suffered the condition.

In The Loud House episode "Driving Ambition" the character Lori developed yips when she had to perform in a golf contest in front of someone from the university she wished to attend.

The character Bob in Bob's Burgers suffers from the yips that leave him unable to flip burgers in the season nine episode "The Fresh Princ-ipal."

In Brockmire, the main character Jim Brockmire suffers the yips in season 3, episode 3 "The Yips" leaving him unable to determine the count as he calls play by play.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barkow, A. and Barrett, D. (1997) Golf Legends of All Time. Publications International.
  2. ^ Smith et al., 2000.
  3. ^ Farias J. Intertwined. How to induce neuroplasticity. A new approach to rehabilitating dystonias. Galene Editions, 2012.
  4. ^ Yarow, Jay (2014-07-21). "The Tiger Woods Era Is Over". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  5. ^ "Gavin Hamilton | Scotland Cricket | Cricket Players and Officials | ESPN Cricinfo". Content-uk.cricinfo.com. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  6. ^ "'We very rarely talk about winning'". Big Picture. Wellcome Trust. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  7. ^ Bawden, M.; Maynard, I. (December 2001). "Towards an understanding of the personal experience of the 'yips' in cricketers". Journal of Sports Science. pp. 937–53.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  8. ^ "The 1973 PIT N Pitching Splits for Steve Blass". Retrosheet. August 23, 1989. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  9. ^ Meisel, Zack (2013-05-10). "The Yips: Difficult to understand, difficult to cure". MLB.com. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  10. ^ "Mackey Sasser throwing yips". Retrieved November 17, 2018 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ "San Francisco Giants 5, New York Mets 0". Retrosheet. August 23, 1989. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  12. ^ Goldberg, Alan. "The Mackey Sasser Story". competitivedge.com. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  13. ^ "Wohlers not alone in battles". Augusta Chronicle. Associated Press. July 19, 1998. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  14. ^ Apstein, Stephanie (2017-05-17). "How Jon Lester conquered his bout with the yips". SI.com. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  15. ^ Pompei, Dan (2018-04-04). "How Hayden Hurst Went from Baseball Flameout to Potential 1st-Round NFL Pick". bleacherreport.com. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  16. ^ Passan, Jeff (2019-02-04). "Luke Hagerty Improbably Comeback". espn.com. Retrieved 2018-02-04.
  17. ^ Gonzalez, John. "The End of the Affair: Markelle Fultz and the Sixers Are Probably Breaking Up". The Ringer. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  18. ^ bballvideos (2007-12-21). "Chuck Hayes Ugly Free Throws vs Denver 12/20". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  19. ^ "Tom Perotta - The Yips". Tennisworld.typepad.com. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  20. ^ "BBC Sport - Snooker - Hendry reveals 10-year battle with the 'yips'". BBC News. 2010-12-08. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  21. ^ Sims, David (2013-01-13). "Happy Endings: "Kickball 2: The Kickening"". AV/TV Club. Retrieved 2018-04-06.