"Richards Knee Support," Richards Mfg. Co. (catalog) Memphis, Tenn., 1966, page 17. .
Advertisement of Truform Anatomical Supports Appearing in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, 1965, page 63. .
"Hinged Knee Brace," DePuy Orthopedic Appliances. Splints Fracture Equipment (catalog), DePuy Mfg. Co., Inc., Warsaw, Indiana, 1964, page 104..
This invention relates generally to protective and supporting bandages and is particularly directed to an elastic knee brace adapted to prevent injuries to the knee and to provide support for an already injured or weakened knee.
In recent years, due to the popularity of the game of football, increased attention to football-related injuries has resulted. Of particular interest currently are devices which can be worn by players who have sustained various knee injuries and which will both protect the knee against further injury, and additionally support the already weakened knee sufficiently to allow the injured player to resume his activities on the playing field with a minimum of impairment of movement and discomfort. While football-related knee injuries have been a prime contributor to interest in these supports, torn ligaments, torn cartilages, arthritis and other knee-weakening conditions have also contributed to interest in knee braces.
A frequently employed approach to supporting a weakened knee has been to apply adhesive tape around the joint in order to provide some measure of protection and added strength. This approach, however, is expensive since it requires the time of a trainer, and a significant amount of adhesive tape which is not reusable. Also, it leads to discomfort arising from impaired circulation. There is also discomfort when the adhesive tape is removed from the skin. To overcome some of the disadvantages of taping, various elastic sleeves have been employed, some using stiffeners to provide additional strength to the brace in an effort to assist the wearer. However, even these often have problems associated with their use, such as impairing normal bending movement of the knee joint.
Therefore, it is the principal object of this invention to provide a knee brace which provides a high degree of support without sacrificing freedom in normal bending action, and yet is reusable, and easily put on or taken off by the wearer without the discomfort associated with removal of adhesive tape or the inconvenience of undoing numerous laces or straps.
This objective has been accomplished, in part, by providing a hinged, elastic sleeve knee brace with pads interiorly of the hinge arms which apply a torque to the hinge arms in a direction such that the central pivotal portion of the hinges are urged inwardly, enhancing the lateral supportive pressure applied to the knee by the brace. In accordance with a further aspect of this invention, dual purpose adjustable straps having a length exceeding the knee girth are provided which are slidably passed through oppositely positioned rings secured to the sleeve. The straps fully encircle the entire leg proximate the upper and lower hinge arms, or alternatively encircle the leg only partially, spanning the hinge arms across only the back of the leg. In the full leg-encircling strap configuration, the straps function to hold the brace in position about the knee, whereas in the partial encircling orientation the straps operate to pull the hinges rearwardly assisting in maintaining the pivot point of the hinge at the desired location coincident with the bending axis of the knee. Finally, and pursuant to a further feature of the invention, an oversized opening may be provided in one of the hinge arms to slidably receive the hinge pin, providing a floating hinge action which permits the hinge point to vary with variations in position of the knee axis as the knee bends through different and varying angles.
It is another objective of this invention to provide a knee brace having openings to accommodate the kneecap area and the area behind the knee to prevent bunching of the brace as the knee is flexed and, consequently, providing a brace which is substantially more comfortable to the wearer than previously known braces.
These and other objectives, features and advantages of this invention will become more readily apparent from the following detailed description of the drawings which illustrate a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a preferred embodiment of the knee brace of this invention;
FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the preferred embodiment;
FIG. 3 is a partial vertical cross-sectional view of the knee brace in FIG. 1 showing the hinge and side thereof;
FIG. 4 is a plan view of the knee brace;
FIG. 5 is an elevational view, in cross-section, of the knee brace, showing the force transmitted to the side of the knee joint by the hinge arms as a consequence of the pads;
FIG. 6 shows an alternative hinge;
FIG. 7 shows a plan view of a modified knee brace with a strap for only partially encircling the wearer's leg.
Referring now to FIG. 1, the brace is seen to include a substantially cylindrical sleeve 10 which forms the main body of the knee brace and comprises an elastic material, either of the two-way or one-way stretch variety. The sleeve preferably tapers slightly from top to bottom and also is preferably slightly curved with the front surface being slightly convex in order to conform to the contours of the knee and the portions of the leg slightly above and slightly below the knee joint itself. The top edge 11 and the bottom edge 12 are bound with a suitable elastic material in order to prevent the unravelling of the elastic threads of the sleeve 10. The sleeve 10 is additionally provided with a front opening 13 which is located substantially equidistant between the top edge 11 and the bottom edge 12 of the sleeve 10 and is also bound with an elastic material to prevent thread unravelling. The front opening 13 is located at a point to accommodate the kneecap of the wearer and prevent binding of the material against the flexing kneecap as the wearer's leg is bent. A second or rear opening 14 is provided in the sleeve 10 and is located opposite the front opening 13. Opening 14 is preferably somewhat larger in size than the front opening 13. The rear opening 14 is located at a point corresponding to the back of the wearer's knee and is substantially equidistant between the top edge 11 and the bottom edge 12. Opening 14 is provided to prevent bunching of the sleeve material 10 as the knee is bent, and consequently renders the knee brace more comfortable.
Disposed on either side of the sleeve 10 and substantially equidistant between the center of the front and the center of the rear openings 13 and 14 is an elongated hinge, shown generally as 15, which is preferably made from tempered brass, or stainless steel, which can be shaped to the contour of the leg although other metals having the desired strength characteristics can be utilized. Each elongated hinge 15 has upper and lower elongated arms 16a and 16b which take the form of substantially rectangular-shaped plates with rounded free ends 17a and 17b and smoothly rearwardly curved overlapping hinged ends or ears 18a and 18b. A pin 19 passes through each of the hinged ends 18a and 18b in a direction perpendicular to the plane of the ends to permit each of the elongated arms 16a and 16b to be pivotally joined about an axis perpendicular to the plane of the arms 16a and 16b passing through the pin 19. At least one of the holes 75 in arms 16a and 16b through which pin 19 passes is oversized to permit movement of the pin with respect to at least one of the hinge arms. Such pin movement enables the hinge point of the hinge to float as the knee bends, in turn permitting the hinge point to vary with variations in location of the knee axis as the knee bends. However, if the floating action of the movable pin is not desired, the holes through the arms 16a and 16b should be made to accommodate the pin only, preventing movement of the pin with relation to both arms.
Advantageously, the ears 18a and 18b have a curved forward facing edge 20 which smoothly connects the central section of the elongated arms 16a and 16b with the ears to provide a substantially smooth edge for all angular configurations of the hinge. This feature is especially advantageous when the user wears pants or stockings over the brace. Since the forward edge 20 of the hinge is smooth and does not have any sharp protrusions, the forward hinge edge does not catch and tear the stocking or material of the pant leg. Thus, by providing a curved edge 20, the possibility of cutting or tearing a pant leg or stocking is eliminated.
Located between the central portion of the elongated arms 16a and 16b and the terminal or ear portions 18a and 18b are offset portions 21 which are provided to displace the ear portions to a plane which is parallel but displaced from the plane of the extended arm 16. This offset displaces the inner end of each pin 19 outwardly sufficiently to prevent the pin from rubbing against the knee of the wearer.
The elongated arms 16a and 16b are disposed within the pockets, shown generally as 22. Each pocket comprises an outer cover 23 which extends from beyond the rounded end 17 to a point adjacent the offset portion 21 on each of the elongated arms 16. The outer cover 23 preferably comprises a thick, somewhat flexible leather material although other materials having the same strength and flexibility characteristics may also be used. The inner side 24 of each pocket 22 comprises a thinner and somewhat more flexible material than the outer cover 23 and may also be made of leather or other suitably strong and flexible material. The inner side of the upper pocket 25 has a shape which substantially conforms to the shape of the upper elongated arm for the hinge 15 and includes a rearwardly disposed ear-conforming portion 27 which underlies the ear portions 18a and 18b of each of the elongated arms 16a and 16b. The inner side of the lower pocket 26, however, does not have a rearwardly extending ear portion and is substantially rectangular-shaped with rounded ends.
Extending from the upper end of the upper pocket to the lower end of the lower pocket is a single, flexible, padded strip 28, preferably leather, which is stitched to the sleeve 10. The elongated strip 28 provides the wearer with protection against blows to the side of the knee.
The pockets 22, including the outer cover 23, the inner side of each pocket, and the elongated strip 28 are stitched to the sleeve 10. The pockets 22 permit the hinges 15 to be removed from the brace if the wearer does not desire or require the additional support of these hinges.
Positioned above and below the front opening 13 and the rear opening 14 and on the side of the knee brace are four strap loops or rings 30 preferably made of stainless steel, although other metals, strong plastics, fiber bundles or even leather would be acceptable. Each of the strap loops 30 is held in place by a looped web 31 whose ends are sewn between the inner sides 24 of the pockets 22 and the elongated strip 28.
The brace also includes a pair of straps 32 and 33. The upper strap 32 and the lower strap 33 include a backing web having Velcro fastening looped fibers 34 on one side thereof and Velcro fastening hooks 35 on the other side of the backing web. The lower strap 33 is shown in FIG. 1 with its hooked portion 35 facing outwardly from the sleeve 10 and the looped fiber portion 34 facing inwardly toward the surface of the sleeve. When a strap, such as lower strap 33, completely encircles the leg, the looped fiber portion 34 can be pressed against the hooked region 35 permitting the hooks to engage the loops so that the strap 33 will remain secured. Once secured, the strap assists in maintaining the brace in the desired position on the knee. Since the hooks in the hooked region 35 are made of a resilient material, the strap may be released simply by pulling the looped fiber portion away from the hooks until all of the engaged loops have been disengaged.
The straps, such as upper strap 32, is positioned, as shown in FIG. 1, through each of the strap loops 30 in a manner permitting the strap to partially encircle the sleeve 10. This partial encircling of the sleeve is also depicted in phantom lines in FIG. 4 wherein the hooked portion 35 is bent towards the back side of the sleeve as shown generally at 36 so that the hooks project inwardly towards the sleeve 10. The looped fiber portion 34 is bent back as shown generally at 37 so that the looped fibers are disposed away from the sleeve 10 to permit the engagement of the loops with the hooks shown generally at 38. When secured in a partial leg-encircling position, the strap pulls the hinges rearwardly, assisting in maintaining the hinge pins 19 on the axis of knee bending.
From this description of the straps, it will be clear that either the upper strap 32 or the lower strap 33 can be secured in a position in which the strap completely encircles the sleeve 10 of the knee brace or the straps may be positioned to only partially encircle the sleeve 10 as depicted by the upper strap 32 in FIG. 1. It will also be clear that other belt-like straps can be employed rather than the Velcro straps shown without impairing the utility or comfort of the knee brace.
Disposed on the inner side of the sleeve 10 and located substantially opposite each of the pivotal connections between the elongated arms of the hinges 15 is a knee joint pad 40. The pad 40 includes a central foam rubber core 41 located in a fabric envelope. The envelope is sewn to the sleeve 10, and locates the foam pad 41 in a fixed position with respect to the hinges 15. The foam pad 41 has a forward convex edge 42 disposed near the front opening 13 and is so shaped to conform to the kneecap and provide comfort for the wearer. The upper and lower edges 43 of the foam pad 41 are disposed in a rearwardly converging relationship and extend across substantially the entirety of the sides of the sleeve 11 to a rear vertical edge 44. The pads 40 are designed to provide an inward lateral pressure from the elastic sleeve to the wearer's knee joint, and also provide a measure of protection from possible blows which might strike the side of the wearer's knee.
Disposed near the lower end of the sleeve 10 are two other pads shown generally at 45. Pads 45 are rectangular, and are disposed on opposite sides of the inner surface of the sleeve between the knee and the lowermost ends 17a and 17b of elongated hinge arms 16a and 16b. The lower pads 45, like the knee joint pads 40, have a foam rubber core and a fabric envelope 47 which is sewn to the inner surface of the sleeve 10, securing the pads to the sleeve. The lower pads 45 by isolating the lower edges 17b of hinge arms 16b from the wearer's calf also serve to provide a torque T on the hinge as shown in FIG. 5. Specifically, pad 45 by applying a force F at the lower end of the elongated arm 16b, produces an opposite force F' directed laterally toward the side of the knee through the knee pad 40. This inwardly directed force F' is applied to the side of the wearer's knee and has been found to be useful in improving the knee support characteristics of the brace.
FIG. 6 shows an alternative hinge structure in which the elongated hinge arms 60 and 61 are pivotally joined together by a pin 62. The elongated arm 61 has an elongated slot 63 through which the pin 62 passes. The slot 63 is disposed at an angle to the longitudinal axis of the elongated arm 61 and, upon rotation about the pin 62, permits the pivotal axis passing through the pin 62 to be shifted with respect to the longitudinal axis of the elongated arm 61. The shifting of the pivotal axis of the hinge with respect to the sleeve moves the pivot axis of the hinge in order to be more closely aligned with the bending axis of the knee as the knee bends.
While the foregoing detailed description of the knee brace has been made with particular attention to preferred embodiments thereof and additionally including alternative hinges, the scope of the following claims is in no way limited by the specific knee brace described but also encompasses those modifications which would be obvious to those of skill in the art.
According to a further modification of the knee brace as shown in FIG. 7, wherein like reference numerals are used to identify like elements, upper and lower straps, only one strap 100 being shown, are provided which partially encircle the girth and preferably extends around the back side thereof of the wearer's leg. One end 101 of the strap 100 is secured to one side 10a of the sleeve 10 by the stitching used to secure the hinge holding pockets 22 to the outside of the sleeve 10. The strap 100 extends from the end 101 around the back side of the wearer's leg and through a strap holding ring 102 secured to the sleeve 10 at side 10b thereof. The free end 103 of the strap 100 which extends through the strap holding ring 102 has a Velcro hook-carrying securing member 104 sewn thereto. The Velcro hook member 104 is located on the same side of the strap 100 as the Velcro loop-carrying member 105 so that, when the free end 103 passes through the ring 102, it can be folded backwardly so the hooks of the securing member 104 can engage the Velcro loops 105 and secure the strap in position. The wearer can adjust tension on the straps 100 by adjusting the length of the strap between the secured end 101 and that portion of the strap which engages ring 102. Because the strap 100 is secured at end 101, this adjustment can be easily made by the wearer using only one hand.