Is Behavioural Therapy a New Treatment Option for Task-Specific Dystonia in Athletes? A Case Series

Marleen Ieke Tibben*, ERIK VAN Wensen*, Beorn Nijenhuis, Johannes Zwerver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Task-specific dystonia is a movement disorder of the central nervous system characterized by focal involuntary spasms and muscle contractions, which can negatively affect performance of a specific task. It can affect a wide range of fine motor skills, also in athletes. Current management of task-specific dystonia includes mainly prescribing drugs, exercise therapy or botulinum injections to the affected muscles. Psychological interventions for athletes suffering from task-specific dystonia have not been described extensively so far. 

Methods: We present a case-series of 4 different advanced skill-level athletes with suspected task-specific dystonia, which had a major impact on their performance. They all received treatment consisting of a combination of standardized behavioural therapy and relaxation techniques in the form of hypnosis in a total of 8 sessions in a 16-week time period. 

Results: After treatment, all athletes returned to their original high level of sport performance without further symptoms of their suspected task-specific dystonia. 

Discussion: Behavioural therapy in combination with a relaxation technique seems to be a safe and promising treatment for athletes with suspected task-specific dystonia. Further studies in a larger, preferably randomized controlled trial, are warranted to evaluate if this treatment strategy is effective in athletes with suspected task-specific dystonia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
Number of pages8
JournalTremor and Other Hyperkinetic Movements
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8-May-2023


  • athletes
  • behavioural therapy
  • golf
  • runner’s dystonia
  • sports
  • Task-specific dystonia
  • yips

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