The "Twisties" Explained

A new word has pushed into all our vocabularies… the “Twisties”. It’s the reason Simone Biles had to withdraw from the Women’s Gymnastics team and Individual all around competition in the Olympics. All of us non-gymnasts are asking…. What are the “Twisties”???

  1. Gymnasts practice certain skills over and over until the skill becomes nearly automatic. Our body has a blueprint for each of these skills called a motor plan.

  2. When performing these complicated free flying skills, an athlete’s brain (the cerebellum) is constantly comparing the information from our eyes, inner ear (vestibular system) and other senses to what our body expects to feel. If they don’t match, we get an error signal

  3. In normal circumstances, an athlete can adjust in response to this error signal

  4. In periods of high psychological stress or loss of confidence, an athlete may try to consciously control the movement. This can result in a less fluid movement that may deviate from the normal motor plan

  5. With these deviations, the athlete is getting different information from their sensory systems than they are used to when they automatically, almost unconsciously, perform the skill

  6. This creates that sense of disconnect from the mind and the body. The body is trying to perform the automatic motor plan while the mind is consciously trying to control it

  7. Therefore leading to complete disorientation during a skill


While many of us may not be performing double back handsprings, we too may have experienced this disoriented feeling. Maybe you were sitting in your car with your foot firmly on your brake, and all of a sudden you feel as though you are rolling backward past the car next to you. What’s happening here is your peripheral vision is picking up on movement while your other senses (joints and vestibular system (balance system)) are telling your brain that you are not moving. So you get this transient feeling of disequilibrium due to this mismatch of information.


Vertigo, a common cause of disequilibrium, is mostly due to inaccurate information from your vestibular system (inner ear). The input from your vestibular system does not match the information from your other senses (joints, vision, etc).


If you are suffering from vertigo, you may benefit from seeing Dr. P.J. at Precision Performance and Physical Therapy. She can assist in diagnosing your disequilibrium or vertigo utilizing her clinical experience and infa-red high speed goggles that allow closer observation of your eyes' response to specific tests.


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