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Stephen Hendry tries to guess top World Championship moments

Stephen Hendry, 52, stopping long-term prednisone use revealed the yips destroyed his game in his autobiography Me and the Table. “I can’t overstate the part the yips played in bringing my career to a close,” he wrote. “I think the word yips trivialises it; it is completely debilitating, like a cancer spreading through your game and just destroying it.”

He continued: “It affects golfers, causing them to struggle with what should be simple putts. In my case, the inability to cue ‘through’ the ball results in weak shots.

“There is a debate about whether the yips is a physical or psychological condition, or a mixture of both.”

In 2000, Hendry became aware of a recurring problem with “tightness” around his cueing action,

He said it somehow stopped him believing he could play a shot – even shots he could previously play with his eyes shut.

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He explained: “Even though I say to myself that I was seven-times World Champion, the voice in my head says, ‘You can’t play this shot.’, It’s completely mental – quite literally. My confidence is sapped every time this happens.

“Before, I could play every shot in the game. Now, I feel that it is nothing less than a handicap that creates difficulties during matches. I can’t dominate matches and I’m finding it very hard to win anything.

“It’s like trying to paint without ever using red, or write without using the letter ‘s’. It took away a major part of what I could do as a player and to this day there are shots I can’t play properly because I’m not hitting the ball correctly.”

Hendry revealed however hard he tries he can’t shake off the effects of the yips.

He used to love playing in front of big audiences, but now finds himself jittery if one person is in the room watching.

He added: “For me, it’s a psychological difficulty that has translated into a physical one and although I’d love to play more snooker I really don’t think there is a way back for me now.”

The yips are described as involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt by the Mayo Clinic.

The yips can also affect people who play other sports – such as cricket, darts and baseball.

The American academic medical centre goes on to explain: “It was once thought that the yips were always associated with performance anxiety. However, it now appears that some people have the yips due to a neurological condition affecting specific muscles (focal dystonia).

“Changing the way you perform the affected task might help you find relief from the yips. 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.

Mayo Clinic goes on to explain: “In some people, the yips are a type of focal dystonia, a condition that causes involuntary muscle contractions during a specific task. It’s most likely related to overuse of a certain set of muscles, similar to writer’s cramp. Anxiety worsens the effect.

“Some athletes become so anxious and self-focused — overthinking to the point of distraction — that their ability to execute a skill, such as putting, is impaired.

“‘Choking’ is an extreme form of performance anxiety that may compromise a golfer’s or any athlete’s game.”

The yips has been associated with older age, more experience playing golf and tournament play.

If you suspect you suffer from the yips, speak with your GP.  

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