New York, NY—September 27, 2012
Ryder Cup pressure is described as among the most intense not only golf but in all of sports. Golfers, used to competing as individuals, now have responsibility for team, country and continent. Flubs and shanks are not uncommon and the dreaded "choke" word often comes into play. NBC golf analyst and Ryder Cup veteran Johnny Miller says, "There's nothing more nervous than being at the Ryder Cup."
The Chicago Tribune has said, "The unrelenting pressure comes from placing elite golfers, who are used to thinking only about themselves, into a team situation. Being on a team means responsibility, holding up your end. It involves fear of failure and guilt."
And Rory McIlroy, the world's number one player and a member of Team Europe, recently said, "I think the thing about the Ryder Cup is that it brings a completely different pressure than you face week in, week out, because if you play badly, it's all you. You're not letting down your teammates or your captains or your country."
While most people think of pressure as being "in your head," it's the physical manifestation that causes an athlete to not play their best – or to choke.
Joshua Dines, M.D., a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City, has experience working with athletes in these situations. He has served as team doctor for the U.S. Davis Cup tennis team, another international sporting event where players are not only representing themselves, but their country.
Dines noted, "In these situations, the competitive atmosphere is clearly very stressful psychologically which can cause very real physical manifestations. Mild symptoms may include an upset stomach or headache. But, more serious effects have been observed ranging from tenseness, muscle stiffness or shoulder/back aches to rapid breathing and overt panic attacks. Clearly these can have effects on one's ability to swing a golf club, so to a certain extent, the team that manages the stress best is in a good position to win."
HSS is the official hospital of Ryder Cup and PGA of America.