What Is Dartitis? (and How To Overcome It!)

What Is Dartitis

Playing sports and engaging in regular physical activity contribute significantly to an individual’s overall state of health. As a general rule, the more you participate in these activities the better health you will have.

It makes perfect sense, then, that the opposite is just as true: the healthier you are, the better prepared you will be to participate and succeed in sports and various other types of physical activity.

Today, we are going to talk about one of the many ways in which your health directly affects your performance in darts. Today, we are going to talk about a little-known, but highly impactful condition, known as Dartitis.

What is Dartitis?

Dartitis is a medical condition experienced by dart players. It is an unexplained loss of motor control in the hand, wrist, or arm. It is similar to “the yips”, and results in the inability to properly release the dart during a throw.

While the knowledge on dartitis is still growing, it is believed to be a form of dystonia. It is becoming more common at both the professional and pub level. The increase in cases probably has more to do with the number of players out there growing.

If you have dartitis or think you might, this article is for you.

But before we begin I want you to know that I am not a doctor. If you feel any unexplained pain or stress while playing darts, you should consult your doctor for advice.

I am going to go through everything we know about dartitis in hopes that it will help as many people as possible, so let’s get started.

Get Help For Dartitis

Dartitis – One Of The Many Ways In Which Health Can Affect Darts Play

In most games of darts, each player either has hit the highest score possible or skillfully hit a predetermined segment of the board.

As a result, the player is required to execute a series of complex mechanical motions in the most optimal and consistent manner possible. This implies a very high degree of repetitive and precise movement while maintaining intense concentration.

The bottom line is that, in the highest echelons of play, darts become very demanding, both physically and psychologically.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that there are as many ways to throw a dart as there are players throwing them. In any given game you may see a wide range of different throwing techniques, stances, and strategies.

Playing darts involves making decisions about a diverse number of variables, extrapolating prior knowledge with an ever-evolving situation, to come up with an optimal game plan. In every sense of the word, darts as a sport is a cognitive-emotional activity.

As a consequence, we find that a large number of players come to experience an ailment that has the potential to severely impair their performance: Dartitis.

Assess You Dart Skills

Loss Of Motor Control And What It Means For A Dart Player

Dartitis is an extremely debilitating and potentially crippling condition that can affect a dart player’s motor control.

Surprisingly enough, most people aren’t even aware of its existence; however, if you immerse yourself in the world of darts, it won’t be long before you hear the dreaded word. 

According to the Collins English Dictionary, Dartitis is a condition characterized by “nervous twitching or tension that destroys concentration and spoils performance.”

A conscious fear of missing the target is natural but dartitis is more of a subconscious fear or “second-guessing” of your ability to do so. 

The word was first used in literature in a 1981 edition of Darts World magazine Editor Tony Wood used the word to describe an affliction where a dart player finds themself not able to release their dart properly.

There have been many well-known cases at a professional level. Pros like Berry van Peer and even five-time world champion Eric Bristow both lost their ability to throw darts. It does not matter how relaxed you are, how well you focus, or how good your technique is, sometimes your conscious mind will lose over the subconscious.

Dartitis is a multi-etiological phenomenon characterized by involuntary movements or uncontrollable failed movements, which negatively affect a player’s ability to perform. In other words, the exact definition of dartitis is complicated as it includes many elements and variables coming into play. 

Dartitis is a serious condition with the potential to destroy a player’s confidence and end careers at the highest level of play. But, what is it exactly? Why do some experience it while others never do? And, most importantly, what can be done to prevent it and treat it?

Ever Heard of Dystonia?

Nobody can really say what causes dartitis to appear and disappear suddenly, as it often does. However, there is evidence to suggest that dartitis is a type of focal dystonia, a neurological movement disorder characterized by sustained or intermittent muscle contractions that can cause repetitive movements and abnormal postures.

There are various types of dystonia that affect different muscle groups in the body.

In the case of dartitis, the dystonia is neurological and it interferes with the performance of the dart throw since the muscles of the hand and wrist contract involuntarily. This loss of muscle control causes painful cramps and abnormal positioning, which makes it near impossible to release and throw the dart in an effective manner.

The causes of dystonia are as varied as its manifestations. Some are hereditary and others acquired. There is evidence that multiple genes are involved, which explains why some people are more prone to develop dartitis than others.

Environmental factors are potential triggers for the development of focal dystonia because they appear disproportionately in people who perform high-precision hand movements, such as musicians, artists, and dart players.

Symptoms of Dartitis

The symptoms of dartitis vary, the most common symptoms are cramps, involuntary muscle spasms, pain, and abnormal posture of the hand and wrist when in motion.

These direct symptoms can be accompanied by secondary symptoms that include difficulty sleeping, exhaustion, fatigue, mood swings, mental stress, difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, and depression.

In some cases, symptoms may appear and progress indefinitely, plateau for years, or stop progressing entirely. Progression can be delayed by treatment in some cases and by adaptive lifestyle changes in others.

What Causes Dartitis?

The mechanisms which cause dartitis are not yet entirely clear but are supposed to involve abnormalities within the brain’s basal ganglia, such as inhibitory dysfunctions and abnormal plasticity.

However, there is one theory that most players of the sport understand.

It has been observed that the appearance of dartitis is associated, to a significant degree, with a player’s perceived level of psychological pressure. In other words, when a player perceives his skills are insufficient to meet the demands of the situation at hand, they may experience a significant drop in performance.

This phenomenon has the potential to turn pathologic and develop into a chronic problem.

So, we see that often a player’s dartitis flares up in conjunction with increased fear of making a mistake. Moreover, this sense of extreme anxiety can play a role in the development of dartitis as well as in exacerbating the symptoms.

The psychological nature of dartitis is supported by the fact that the more experienced a player is, the more likely that he is at risk of developing dartitis.

This usually occurs when the player feels pressure and tries to ensure consistently high performance by consciously intervening in a movement that under normal circumstances happens automatically and subconsciously.

Remember dartitis is not to be confused with general muscle pain or fatigue. In which case you can just rest, get a good massage or a foam roller.

Is There A Treatment For Dartitis?

Treatment options for dartitis are quite limited. There is currently no universally successful treatment or cure.

In most cases, however, reducing the types of movements that trigger or worsen dystonic symptoms seems to provide some relief. Reducing stress levels through exercise and/or relaxation techniques may also provide significant relief.

Some patients with dystonia have reported positive results through physiotherapy by improving their overall mobility, balance, general function. Some with dartitis might consider this a viable avenue of treatment.

A recent study suggests that reducing psychological stress, along with a regimen of physical exercise, is highly beneficial in reducing the most crippling symptoms of dystonia. Another study suggests the potential for progressive relaxation techniques to improve coordination, balance, and body perception.

Due to the rare and highly variable nature of dystonia and dystonia-like conditions like dartitis, research on the efficacy of these treatments is limited, and currently, there is no standard treatment.

Over the years several players who suffer from dartitis have tried various methods to cope with the condition. Here are a few ways to overcome dartitis:

  • Reduce stress
  • Meditation / Relaxation techniques
  • Physiotherapy
  • Hypnosis
  • Change your grip / throw
  • Play alone or where there is no pressure
  • Take your time
  • Practice throwing without aiming to loosen up
  • Try a lighter dart
  • Don’t overthink things
  • Lower your expectations for the time being
  • Take a break (a week or a month)
  • Learn to throw with your other hand

Some of these suggestions might seem a little bit drastic. It is important to keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different. Sometimes the fix can be simple, sometimes difficult. But there is hope.

Most players who have suffered from dartitis have found a way to conquer or work around it.

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from this condition, you will have to do some soul searching and try various remedies to see which one works best for you.

Have you suffered from dartitis? Let us know what worked for you in the comments below. Your experience could help others. Thanks


Leave a Reply
  1. I never had dartitis but know a few who did. I was told that throwing a ping-pong ball against a wall and catching it was very helpful in regaining control.

  2. The result of your throw is prepared in your head(in your minds eye).Not on the darts way to the board. In that regard,
    your skill-building is a product or property of the thousands and thousands of throws and series,and so also collectively a result gained by your personal analysis, psychology and philosophy made,gained,discarded and concluded in parallel with those growing numbers of throws throughout the years,and as such, a psychosomatic health gauge of the current sum outcome of your experience.

  3. Hi i do suffer from it and its hard to control it at least from my point of view some days its not that bad but there are days where i could not play.

    Took a break 3 yrs hopefull that i overcome it but after only a week of playing and 1 league game it has come again as sudden as that .

    Been trying everything exept phycatric help.

    It sucks ant play the game i love .

    And one thing i know its started as i was going through a tough time do i think yeah the stress triggered it

  4. There is another option here if you have a misalignment of your cervical spine disc and also create a lack of coordination intermittently I will do some more research on this and I will get back to you and let you know because I am receiving spinal epidurals on my cervical as well as my lumbar I have had Dartitis for 25 years When Eric was alive we spoke about it a few times I would like to find a resolve I am working on it I will keep you posted. keep the drive alive. Walt Bottelsen

    • I started playing darts in 1976 then in 1996 dartitis struck then I quit and went back to bowling for a few years. Got back into darts and seeked help, after searching the internet I found a few tips that helped me and got back into darts, like closing my eyes and throwing at the board also throwing left-handed occasionally.
      I have had several spinal epidural and nothing seemed to help for me, as I’ve got spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, DDD, spinal stenosis and you name it plus I’ve been an auto mechanic for over 50 years so my back has taken a beating.
      The thing that helped my back the most was the Stuart McGill method now doing very well at 67.
      Anyway occasionally dartitis strikes even today but I usually take a step back and try not to think so much and do some ghost throws and that seems to help.
      Good luck!

  5. I started playing darts pretty much as soon as i was old enough to legally drink in a pub. Got introduced to it by a friend of mine, who ive been team mates with ever since. I picked it up pretty quickly and found i had somewhat of a knack for it. Not enough to turn semi pro or further, but enough to considered quite a handy pub league player. Entered a few local tournaments for the experience, never got past 2nd or 3rd round, but was happy to be playing against some quality players and feeding off their vast experience and ability. Fast forward to around 7 years or so ago. Playing a standard pub league Tuesday evening game, I’m up at the oche and bang, dartitis hits me like a freight train. The past 7 years have been soul destroying for me darts wise. I’ve tried all the possible methods, practices, routines etc … to help ease the dartitis or even try and get rid of it. Last Tuesday (8th March) was by far the worst its ever been. A pub packed full of customers and dart team players all focused on the board due to its location. I played my doubles match and could not miss a dart. Everything went where i wanted it. Get to my singles game, i replicate everything i did in doubles to give myself the best chance and whack, cant throw a dart at all. Takes anywhere from 30seconds to 1 minute to release each dart. Im at the end of my tether now with it. Considering packing darts in altogether unless something changes or someone can help me.

    • I have the exact same experience with dartitis. Got into because of a friend and found I had a knack for it. Within a year became a pretty good local league player. As soon as I got to the A league level out of nowhere dartitis hit me. Whether it was practice or a match I couldn’t get myself to release my dart. However, it affects me in anything I do once I develop high enough expectations for that particular thing. I can no longer play pool either. It even effects my ability to write. I like to have clean and legible handwriting and the pressure I put on myself to write well has made me suffer from dartitis even when trying to write. Dartitis has literally robbed me of so many things I am passionate about. I’ve had it for around 8 years now with no end in site.

  6. With my eyes closed, I can throw but not when open what’s going on?

  7. I used to be a half decent darts player but got struck down and packed in.
    I’ve just started playing Quoits. I was doing really well but in the last two games I’ve been struck with the tightness in my bicep and inability to throw properly. I have to get through it because I love the game.

  8. Suddenly happened to me about 2 month ago. Seriously considering packing in.

  9. I have had it 3 times and stopped playing forever when I go it the 3rd time…

    To overcome it the first 2 times was to throw with my eyes closed.
    I looked at the board, closed my eyes and threw the dart, I even hit 180s and won games like that but it was no fun. Opponents got angry at me..

    Now thinking at it maybe that’s what caused it for me. During practice I used to throw the first dart and then closed my eyes for the other two to train my muscle memory.

  10. I have had dartitis for 18 months, I was a very good player topping the superleague averages twice (back to back), I also played County A for 5 years and won various comps . It literally happened overnight, I was averaging 90+ and even had 2 shirts made because I was going to Q school. I started throwing darts into the wall/skirting board, I thought it was just a one off but it’s been over 18 months of heartbreak, frustration and anger. I can no longer play the game I love, I have given up because it’s bloody embarrassing.

  11. I considered myself a good dart player about 15 years ago, I hit 180s daily then got dartitis, in my right hand, absolutely crushed me! Then I started practicing with my left hand and I got pretty good not as good but I was still hitting 180s then got it in my left and it’s been with me ever since, cant throw with eather hand now and I loved darts, it’s not even about hitting the 180s it’s the ribbon on how I used throw, now it just frustrates me so I’ve literally give up for good, still not alot of people can say they’ve hit 180s and 170 finishes with both hands! Any tips

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