Can the arm-lock putting grip benefit golfers with focal dystonia or tremor?

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Estee Leung


Focal dystonia is an acquired, often progressive neurological condition that affects wrist and hand muscles in many golfers, causing involuntary jerks (“yips”) that disrupt smooth movement execution and ruin the resulting shot. Treatments for yips include psychomotor training, Botox injections, and adopting modified grips that may reduce unwanted participation of hand and wrist muscles.

Our research explores the use of a novel arm-lock putting method for golfers suffering from focal dystonia, intention tremor or other neurological tremors. We are testing the hypothesis that golfers who use a standard putter (SP) and tend to yip or have tremors may benefit from using a novel ‘arm-lock’ putter grip (ALP).

The experiments were carried out in a lab-based putting green with hole lengths ranging from 5-15ft. Participants of both sexes, aged 19-83, included experienced golfers with and without focal dystonia or tremors, as well as non-golfers. Each putted four 18-hole rounds: two rounds with the SP and two with the ALP. Putter and ball motions were tracked with 6 video cameras (Lorex). A putter-mounted sensor (Blast Motion) recorded 11 biomechanical variables of each stroke, including backstroke length and duration, changes in three putter face angles and impact speed. 

We are currently analyzing biomechanical factors that may explain the putting performance differences using the SP vs. ALP. The next phase of the project, which will constitute my honors thesis, involves video image analysis using DeepLabCut, a markerless pose estimation software, to reveal individual characteristics in putting motions using the SP vs. ALP.

Faculty Supervisor: Dr. Andy Hoffer, Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University

Research Team Members:
Aaron Siebenga, Aryan Sotoodeh, Pawel Kudzia, Simon Fraser University

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