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Got a case of the Yips?

arm bowling

Tony arm bowling

Tony Allsop from North Mackay Bowls Club shares his experience on developing a neurological problem and how arm bowling has helped him continue bowling.

Tony’s arm bowling story… For many years, I played competitive golf mainly around a handicap of 8-9. I was playing in the City of Cairns Open, when I developed a case of the ‘yips’ (loss of fine motor skills in athletes). At that stage it affected my putting, and I could not control the fingers on my right hand. Over time it became much worse, until I could not chip or putt, and only a full-bodied swing was not affected. I gave golf away and went sailing.

About eight years ago I became interested in bowls. I had always been a sports person, so I learnt how to play fairly quickly. However, I only ever played in our club social games, never in pennants or club championships.

My job was a travel writer/photographer for a national caravan magazine, and as my wife, Denyse and I travelled throughout Australia for around six months each year, writing and shooting videos, I did not play bowls during this time. About two years ago, the dreaded ‘yips’ came back and I could not control the bowl at all. It was a problem with my forehand, then my back hand, and I just had no control in even keeping the bowl on the rink.

Denyse is a doctor with 30 years’ experience in General Practice, and she had seen this problem previously. It is called Focal Dystonia and effects people who constantly use their hand or fingers for a long time. It affects writers, musicians, golfers and of course, a few bowlers.

I tried tennis and table tennis and it was impossible to hit the ball. It also affects my computer work now, particularly using the mouse, and don’t ask me to try to hand write a letter.

I tried to bowl left handed, and spent many hours at our club practising, but realised I would never be able to play to the same standard as previously. Arm bowling was recommended and this was my salvation. Yes, I do have a doctor’s certificate. Since retiring from my travel writing job earlier this year, I have played and enjoyed this great game several times a week. I have heard that a few other players have suffered from this neurological problem, although it is not widely known.

See the full article here in Bowls Plus magazine.

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