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Title:
Combination crutch-walker
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An improved combination crutch-walker possesses the advantages of both a crutch and a walker. It provides the full support of a crutch combined with the stability of a walker. The device is a walker with a vertically adjustable crutch structure, attached to the upper body-supporting frame. The device has arm and hand supports that can also be adjusted so that the user's arms are extend to lock elbows, thus distributing the user's weight and allowing the user to utilize his own strength, in conjunction with stability provided by a walker's footprint.


Inventors:
Lev, Harry (Youngstown, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/211801
Publication Date:
02/05/2004
Filing Date:
08/02/2002
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61H3/04; (IPC1-7): A45B3/00; A45B5/00
View Patent Images:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Robert, Lev G. (4766 Michigan Boulevard, Youngstown, OH, 44505, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A combination crutch-walker comprising: (a) body support means for providing weight distribution of a user by supporting said user at the user's armpits, and extending said user's arms to handholds and locking said user's elbows; and, (b) ground support means for providing a stable interface including at least 3 contact points with a substrate beneath said combination crutch-walker, said ground support means, being arranged to support said body support means.

2. The combination crutch-walker of claim 1 wherein said combination crutch-walker is composed of material selected from a group consisting of aluminum, steel, high-density plastic, and wood.

3. The combination crutch-walker of claim 1 wherein said body support means comprise a set of vertical body supports.

4. The combination crutch-walker of claim 3 wherein said set of vertical body supports are attached to a first set of upper horizontal side supports, connected by an upper front horizontal support form an upper support frame.

5. The combination crutch-walker of claim 4 wherein said set of vertical body supports are adjustable forward and backward along said first set of upper horizontal side supports.

6. The combination crutch-walker of claim 5 wherein said set of vertical body supports comprise adjustable upper arm supports adapted to be positioned snugly under said user's arms at said user's armpits.

7. The combination crutch-walker of claim 6 wherein said set of vertical body supports comprise adjustable handholds arranged to extend a user's arms and lock said user's elbows.

8. The combination crutch-walker of claim 7, wherein said front upper horizontal support connected to said set of upper horizontal side supports to form a first U-shaped frame.

9. The combination crutch-walker of claim 8, wherein said ground support means comprise a lower support frame having two lower horizontal side supports connected to a lower horizontal front support, forming a second U-shaped frame.

10. The combination crutch-walker of claim 9, wherein said body support means further comprise a set of middle horizontal side supports connected by a middle horizontal front support to form a third U-shaped frame.

11. The combination crutch-walker of claim 10, wherein said body support means further comprise a first set of vertical members connecting said first U-shaped frame and said third U-shaped frame at at least three different points.

12. The combination crutch-walker of claim 11, wherein said body support means further comprise a second set of vertical members arranged to connect said third U-shaped frame to said second U-shaped frame at at least three different points, said second set of vertical members extending at an angle from said first set of vertical members, wherein said second U-shaped frame bounds a larger area than said third U-shaped frame.

13. The combination crutch-walker of claim 12, wherein said first U-shaped frame is connected to said third U-shaped frame by at least four of said first set of vertical members, and said third U-shaped frame is connected to said second U-shaped frame by at least four of said second set of vertical members.

14. The combination crutch-walker of claim 13, wherein said set of vertical body supports are connected to said third U-shaped frame.

15. The combination crutch-walker of claim 14, wherein said upper, middle and lower front horizontal supports are adjustable.

16. The combination crutch-walker of claim 15, wherein each said upper, middle and lower front horizontal support comprises at least a pair of tubular telescoping members arranged so that one of said tubular telescoping members of each said pair slides within a second respective tubular telescoping member of said pair.

17. The combination crutch-walker of claim 16, further comprising locking means arranged on each of said upper, middle, and lower front horizontal support, and arranged to stop movement of each said pair of telescoping tubular members.

18. The combination crutch-walker of claim 17, wherein said upper, middle and lower sets of side horizontal supports are adjustable in length.

19. The combination crutch-walker of claim 18, wherein said upper, middle and lower horizontal side supports connected by said first and second vertical members form a trapezoid-shaped structure.

20. The combination crutch-walker of claim 18, wherein said ground support means comprise mobility means for effecting movable interfaces with said substrate beneath said combination crutch-walker.

21. The combination crutch-walker of claim 20, wherein said mobility means are selected from a group consisting of wheels, rollers, casters, slides, and gliders.

22. The combination crutch-walker of claim 21, wherein said mobility means further comprise braking means for stopping movement of said combination crutch-walker along said substrate.

23. The combination crutch-walker of claim 2, wherein said means for breaking comprise removable feet deployable to extend beyond said mobility means.

24. The combination crutch-walker of claim 21, wherein said ground support means further comprise at least one anti-tip bumper extending outward beyond the mobility means.

25. A method for supporting a user with a combination crutch-walker comprising the steps of: (a) stabilizing said combination crutch-walker by establishing at least 3 points of contact with a substrate supporting said combination-crutch walker; and, (b) extending said user's arms and locking said user's elbows by means of a weight distribution device to support said user's weight.

26. The method of claim 25 wherein said step (a) of stabilizing said combination crutch-walker comprises the substep of deploying said points of contact outwards from said weight distribution device.

27. The method of claim 26 wherein said step (a) of stabilizing further comprises the substep of deploying dedicated mobilizing means for effecting mobility at said points of contact.

28. The method of claim 27 wherein said step (a) of stabilizing further comprises the substep of applying brakes to said mobilizing means.

29. The method of claim 28 wherein said step (a) of stabilizing further comprises the step of extending feet beyond said mobilizing means to interface with said substrate.

30. The method of claim 25 wherein said step (b) of locking said arms comprises the substep of adjusting upper arm supports on said weight distribution devices.

31. The method of claim 30 wherein said step (b) of locking said arms further comprises the substep of adjusting hand supports on said weight distribution devices.

32. The combination crutch-walker of claim 32, wherein both said body support means and said ground support means comprise two substantially trapezoid-shaped frames, connected by at least one front horizontal support.

33. The combination crutch-walker of claim 32, wherein said at least one horizontal front support comprises pivoting means for rotating said side body support frame with respect to said horizontal front support to fold said side body support frame against said horizontal front support.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention is directed to an assisted walking device. In particular, the present invention is directed to a device that combines the features of both a walker and a crutch.

BACKGROUND ART

[0002] The purpose of a walker is to aid an individual who needs assistance in walking but can support himself to some degree with both his legs. It is a very stable arrangement, but awkward to move and limited in the upper body support provided. A crutch on the other hand is a simple support upon which a person can carry the entire load of a leg which cannot support any weight. Use of a crutch by a fit individual permits nimble and flexible movement. However, a crutch does not provide much stability.

[0003] A crutch has the advantage of supporting the body at two places, usually at each arm. Support takes place at both the armpits and at the hands, which are preferably positioned so that the arms are fully extended and the elbows locked. This allows the arms to take a great deal of the weight so that the weight is partially distributed away from the armpits, which normally are expected to carry the majority of the weight. Distributing weight away from the armpits (using the arms and hands) is important since it is very easy for the user to have circulation cut off at the arm pits, suffer bruising, or even experience considerable pain from prolonged reliance upon crutch support at only the armpits. Crutches are usually meant for individuals who cannot support any weight on one leg but have substantial use of the other leg. An individual who is relatively fit can use a pair of crutches quite easily, and can have a wide range of movement due to the way that crutches are used. Stability is provided by three points of contact with the ground or substrate upon which the user travels. Nonetheless, the use of a crutch involves a great deal of instability while traveling since the weight of the body is swinging from only two points on the ground or substrate, and an individual must be reasonably fit to use crutches for any length of time.

[0004] In contrast, a walker is usually stable. However, it is not a particularly effective device for supporting the user's weight at the upper body. Typically, a user must have some use of both legs in order to use a walker properly. The support provided by a walker is also vastly inferior to that provided by crutches since only the hands are used with a walker, and the placement of the handholds of the walker are not necessarily conducive to utilizing the full strength of the arms and upper body of the user. There is little capability for upper body weight distribution, as is true for crutches. Consequently, someone who is feeble may have trouble supporting themselves with a walker if one or more legs become substantially impaired to the extent that crutches would be appropriate. However, one who is somewhat limited in upper body strength (such as the elderly or the impaired), may have difficulty using a crutch if their legs are not sufficiently strong to utilize a walker. Accordingly, there are many who either constantly or occasionally require the benefits of both a crutch and a walker.

[0005] Previous attempts at creating a combination crutch-walker have suffered various drawbacks. Examples of combination crutch-walkers are disclosed in the following U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,341,381; 3,195,550; 4,187,869; 130,283; 3,273,888; 2,732,004; 1,307,058; 906,845; and, 2,362,466. The techniques of all of these patents are incorporated herein by reference. Addressing the general limitations of all these designs is the focus of the present invention.

[0006] Despite the advances disclosed in each of the subject patents, there are severe limitations with each design. The most common flaw of the conventional designs is that none of them permit the full advantages of both a crutch and a walker in the same structure. Some of the designs of the conventional art provide the ease and latitude of movement found with crutches, but introduce a level of instability that is inappropriate for walkers. Some of the walker designs provide crutch-like support structures without the full body support or ease of movement associated with conventional crutches. In some cases, a rather awkward structure results, hindering the movement of the user rather than facilitating it. In other cases, ease of movement has meant a lack of stability, as well as a lack of support for the user.

[0007] Clearly, a need exists for a combination crutch-walker that provides the full advantages of both devices while introducing none of the disadvantages of either.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] It is an object of the present invention to overcome as many of the disadvantages of the conventional art as can be identified and properly addressed. In effect, the object of the present invention is to provide a new configuration for a crutch-walker that provides all of the advantages of both designs.

[0009] It is a further object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination that is both stable and fully supportive.

[0010] It is another object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination with an adjustable upper body support that is vertically adjustable to the proper height for a wide variety of users It is an addition object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination with a stable and adjustable lower frame structure.

[0011] It is another object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination that maximizes the support and comfort of the user.

[0012] It is yet a further object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination that is closely adjustable to a wide range of user sizes.

[0013] It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination that does not tip over during normal use.

[0014] It is again an additional object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination that fully utilizes the upper body support capabilities of the user.

[0015] It is yet a further object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination that is easy to maneuver while remaining extremely stable during all phases of use.

[0016] It is again another object of the present invention to provide a crutch-walker combination that allows easy control by the user so that the device is easily moved or stopped at the discretion of the user.

[0017] These and other objects are achieved by a combination crutch-walker having a body support device that provides weight distribution for the user by extending the user's arms and locking the user's elbows. Also included is a ground support device for providing a stable interface using at least three contact points with the ground or substrate beneath the crutch-walker.

[0018] Another aspect of the present invention is a method of supporting a user with a combination crutch-walker. The crutch-walker is stabilized by establishing at least a three-point contact with the ground or substrate supporting the crutch-walker. Then, the user's arms are extended locking the user's elbows through the use of a weight distribution device.

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the invention; and

[0020] FIG. 2 is a top view of the invention.

[0021] FIG. 3 is a side view of a variation of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0022] The present invention, as seen in FIG. 1 is a combination crutch-walker 1. In the following embodiment, this invention can be described in terms of two components: an upper support frame A and a lower support frame B. The upper support frame A is composed of two upper horizontal frontal supports 8 that are connected to two vertical frontal corner posts or members 4. The horizontal frontal supports 8 are telescoping pieces that can be adjusted to the width of the user's body. To accomplish this, they have male 15 and female 17 ends that can slide into one another, allowing them to contract or extend.

[0023] Also connected to each vertical frontal corner post or members 4 are two horizontal side upper 6. These horizontal side 6 are each stabilized in the back by two vertical rear corner posts 10.

[0024] These pieces taken in conjunction create a U-shaped upper support frame A surrounding the user across the front and on both sides. This shape allows the user easy rear access to the crutch-walker. It also gives the user the option of positioning himself towards the front or rear of the device.

[0025] Attached to the upper support frame A are two vertical body supports 24, one for each side of the crutch walker 1. These body supports 24 are connected to the horizontal side supports 6 by means of any of a pin, screw, spring-loaded lock or any other type of connecting/locking device. Each vertical body support 24 has an adjustable upper arm support 28 located at its top, and arranged to be adjusted for a user's height to fit under his arm.

[0026] Each vertical body support 24 also has an adjustable hand support 30 located near its bottom and arranged can be adjusted to the user's proper arm length. The positioning of both the upper support 28 and the hand support 30 with respect to each other is crucial to ensure that the user receives full crutch support while using the combination crutch-walker 1. The adjustability of both the upper arm support 28 and hand support 30 allows the user to extend his arms and lock his elbows in a vertical position, thus providing the user with a proper weight distribution, allowing more economic usage of body strength.

[0027] The vertical body supports 24 can also be adjusted forward or backward along the horizontal side supports 6 according to the user's size and preference. By placing the position farther to the rear, additional accessories such as a hand basket can easily be added to the front of the upper support frame A.

[0028] The lower support section B is similar in shape and orientation to the upper body support section A. The lower support section B is connected to upper body support section A at the four corners of the device 1 where vertical frontal and rear corner vertical members on 4 and 10 are connected to lower corner vertical members on 16 that extend outward at an angle away from their connection as they descend to the ground or substrate supporting the device 1. The lower corner vertical members on 16 extend outward so that the lower support section B as the base of the crutch-walker 1 cover more surface area and thus provide the user with greater stability.

[0029] The lower support frame B is composed of a lower horizontal frontal support 14 that is connected to two lower vertical members 16. The combination crutch-walker 1 can be partially collapsible by pivoting all the aforementioned side structures at vertical members 4 towards the front. Specifically, the connection joints between the horizontal frontal supports 8 and the vertical frontal members 4 as well as the connection joints between the lower horizontal frontal support 14 and the front lower vertical members 16 can be pivoted so that the sides fold in towards the front of the device 1, allowing for easy transport and storage.

[0030] Also attached to the base of the lower vertical members 16 are lower side horizontal supports 12. These lower side horizontal supports 12 are connected to the rear two lower vertical members 16 to form a bottom U-shaped frame. Attached to the four base corners of the device 1 are four wheels that are connected to the bottom U-shaped frame.

[0031] In one preferred embodiment, as described in FIG. 1, wheels 20 are attached to the lower U-shaped frame. Alternatives for floor support interface include rubber feet, castors, gliders, or any combination of such devices. These devices can have adjustable locks on them to stop movement of the device along the floor or substrate. These various combinations could be used on the lower u-shaped frame of the device 1, and changed by means of sliding, pivoting, or rotating the various floor support interfaces.

[0032] One such variation includes extendable feet 22. These are kept in a first position, as depicted in FIG. 1, to facilitate movement of the crutch-walker device 1. Feet 22 can be lowered (by pivoting, for example) to extend beyond the wheels 20 to make contact with the floor. Thus, the feet 22 can act as brakes. If extended far enough the feet can lift device 1 to remove wheels 20 from the floor.

[0033] In another embodiment, brakes can be easily installed using cable or pneumatics lines. These can be run through the interior of the vertical members 16, 4 if they are hollow or along the exterior if they are not. Such brakes can be controlled by hand controls (not shown) placed on the hand supports 30.

[0034] Attached to the base of the crutch-walker are anti-tip safety extensions or bumpers 23. These extensions 23 wrap over and curve downward around the base wheels 20. They act as a further guard against the tipping of the device 1, and can be deployed in a variety of configurations.

[0035] The present drawings show the upper body support section A as being vertically parallel to the user's body and the lower support section B as extending outward at an angle. This arrangement allows for the user to receive the vertical supports 24 so that he can extend his arms and lock his elbows vertically, as he would with a crutch. At the same time, the extended base provides the user with increased stability due to the large surface the combination crutch-walker 1 covers.

[0036] In a further embodiment of the combination crutch-walker 1, both the upper support frame A and the lower support frame B extend away from the user's body on the front and rear faces. This is achieved by having the vertical frontal and rear corner posts 4 and 10 extend at the same angle away from the user's body as the lower corner posts 16 to the front and back. This provides a single angle of extension for the entire device 1. The lower corner posts 16 do not extend away from the user's body to the side. The sides of the device 1 in this embodiment do not extend to the sides of the user, and possess a trapezoid shape. This allows for easier pivoting and collapsing of the sides towards the front as described previously.

[0037] A combination crutch-walker 1 having the aforementioned trapezoid-shaped side body supports is depicted in FIG. 3. The drawing shows a side view of one of the horizontal body support frames 30. Two such frames are held together by front horizontal supports 40 and 42. The horizontal supports are located only at the front of the device, leaving the space in the rear for easy access by the user. The substantially trapezoid-shaped device depicted in FIG. 3 is constituted by two telescoping legs 31, 32 and a horizontal crosspiece 38 connecting the two legs together. While a trapezoid shape is depicted in FIG. 3, the side body support frames 30 can be substantially U-shaped or any other shape that will accomplish the function of the present invention.

[0038] The legs 31, 32 are preferably constituted by telescoping members so that the overall height of the body support frame 30 can be adjusted to fit a wide variety of user heights. Standard devices or modifications for adjusting and locking the telescoping pieces can be used. These would include aligned holes 33, clamps, or any other suitable device. Horizontal piece 38 is preferably positioned so that it fits underneath the user's arm to provide the fit normally found in the crutch. Preferably horizontal piece 38 is padded (not shown). The shape of horizontal piece 38 need not be as depicted in FIG. 3. Rather, any shape that will properly accommodate the user at the armpit can be used.

[0039] Legs 31 and 32 are braced to each other by horizontal side braces 34 and 37. With tubular steel construction, the horizontal bracing provided by front horizontal supports 40 and 42 along with the side horizontal supports 37 and 34 in conjunction with horizontal piece 38, provide adequate support for a user of virtually any weight.

[0040] To obtain the full benefits of a crutch and a walker, an adjustable handhold 35 is provided so that a user can adjust the overall height of the crutch-walker device 1 to fit his armpit with horizontal piece 38 and adjust handhold 35 so that his arms are fully extended and elbows locked. Adjustment of the hand piece 35 is provided by an adjustable length telescoping vertical piece 36. The adjusting devices are the same as those described with respect to legs 31 and 32, and can encompass any techniques from aligned holes with cotter pins to matched threaded tubular pieces. The telescoping vertical piece 36 is horizontally adjustable along the length of horizontal side support 37 by means of a sliding sleeve 361. The sleeve can be lockable with any number of well-known devices such as setscrews, clamps, pins, and the like. The use of this adjusting device allows a user to position himself within the two body support frames 30 for maximum comfort. As an alternative, handhold 35 can be replaced by a solid horizontal bar (not shown).

[0041] One advantage of the embodiment depicted in FIG. 3 is that the trapezoid-shaped side body support frames 30 can be folded by pivoting them with respect to the front horizontal supports 40, 42. This permits convenient storage and transport. The pivoting is accomplished by pivoting sleeve 41, which is formed as part of horizontal front support 40. By virtue of pivoting sleeve 41, each of the side body support frames 30 can be rotated with respect to horizontal front support 40 and thereby folded on top of one or the other. A pivoting device such as a pin, screw, or the like (not shown), is formed as part of the structure of the upper front horizontal support 42. This permits pivoting of the two side body support frames 30 with respect to the upper front horizontal support 42 so that an easy two-step (one for each side body support frame 30) can be quickly accomplished for storage or transport of the crutch-walker combination 1.

[0042] While castors 39 are depicted in FIG. 3, other devices for achieving mobility along the substrate or ground supporting the crutch-walker device 1 can also be used, as previously described. In order to achieve additional stability, the castors or wheels 39 can be fitted with hand brakes (not show) such as those used on bicycles. The cables necessary to operate the brakes can be contained within the hollow tubular structures of legs 31, 32. The cable can run through the hollow horizontal support 37 down through the hollow vertical support 36 to handhold 35. The brake structure can be one that allows locking without additional effort by the user or the traditional brake that operate only when the user provides constant pressure.

[0043] The present invention admits to many variations since there are a wide variety of different needs and constraints on the part of those who must use either a crutch or a walker. Accordingly, the shape and physical configuration of the present invention is expected to be modified in accordance with the personal needs of those who use the inventive crutch-walker 1.

[0044] In another embodiment of the invention, the vertical posts and horizontal supports of the device 1 are composed of tubular stainless steel. This provides a high-level of strength and durability. The device is also protected from corrosion. An alternative material is tubular aluminum, which, while easy to manipulate, is not as strong as steel. As another alternative, titanium would be stronger than steel, but its cost is too prohibitive. High density-plastic could also be used, though it too could be difficult to manufacture. Finally, wood, a traditional material, could be used but it would suffer problems of adjustability, strength, and weight, mitigating against its use.

[0045] Although the preferred embodiment and given drawings concern a combination crutch-walker 1 with four lower vertical corner posts 16, the quantity of such “legs” or vertical members can be any number no less than three, as three legs are the minimal number required to maintain proper stability. As few as three contact points (using casters for example) with the ground can be used. In the alternative, as many contact points can be used as appropriate.

[0046] Additional embodiments of the invention 1 can possess a variety of shapes, including triangular, square, rectangular, circular, elliptical, or any other appropriate shape as long as the lower support frame B extends outward from the user's body. Although the embodiment depicted in the drawings has a general U-shape, other shapes or configurations, such as a triangular shape, can be used within the concept of the present invention.

[0047] The present invention facilitates a process to stabilize the user's body. It achieves this goal by extending the lower support frame B away from the user's body. This gives the device 1 a larger base of support on the ground. The contact points on the ground, which are wheels 20 in the preferred embodiment, are positioned at the end of all vertical corner posts 16 as depicted in FIG. 1.

[0048] Stability is also enhanced with the addition of extendible feet 22 (in FIGS. 1 and 2). These can be engaged by the user to prevent unwanted movement of the device. Brakes can also be utilized to provide the user with additional control over the movement of the combination crutch-walker.

[0049] As part of this overall process, the present invention facilitates support of the user's body. It achieves this goal by placing the vertical supports 24 of FIG. 1 directly beneath the user's arms. The adjustability of the upper and lower horizontal frontal supports 8 and 14 allows the user to adjust the width of the device 1 so that the vertical body supports 24 are properly beneath the user's armpits. The upper support 28 can be adjusted so that it is snug beneath the user's armpits. The hand support 30 can then be adjusted in order for the user to fully extend his arms and lock his elbows. This process also distributes the user's weight by allowing him to utilize his arm's strength.

[0050] While the present invention has been described with reference to certain specific embodiments, it is not limited there to. Rather, the present invention encompasses any adaptations, variations, embodiments, permutations, equivalents, and modifications that would occur to one skilled in the present technology, and being in possession of the present invention. Accordingly, the invention should be limited only by the scope of the appended claims.





 
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