Title:
Gymnastics safety and training aid wrist straps for high bar and other apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A wrist strap is provided for use with gymnastic equipment having a bar held by a gymnast. The wrist strap including: a wrist band secured around the wrist of the gymnast; and one or more straps attached to the wrist band to form a loop around the bar.



Inventors:
Rastegar, Jahangir S. (Stony Brook, NY, US)
Spinelli, Thomas (East Northport, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/390909
Publication Date:
11/02/2006
Filing Date:
03/28/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
482/23
International Classes:
A63B26/00; A63B71/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GINSBERG, OREN ISAAC
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Thomas, Spinelli (2 Sipala Court, East Northport, NY, 11731, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A wrist strap for use with gymnastic equipment having a bar held by a gymnast, the wrist strap comprising: a wrist band secured around the wrist of the gymnast; and one or more straps attached to the wrist band to form a loop around the bar.

2. The wrist strap of claim 1, wherein the one or more straps comprises two straps, one at each side of the wrist.

3. The wrist strap of claim 1, wherein each of the two straps further comprises a means for releasably connecting ends of the straps to form the loop.

4. The wrist strap of claim 1, wherein the one or more straps comprises a strap, the strap being connected to the wrist band by a portion of reduced torsional resistance.

5. The wrist strap of claim 4, wherein the portion of reduced torsional resistance is one of a string or rope.

6. The wrist strap of claim 4, wherein the portion of reduced torsional resistance is a reduced diameter portion of the strap.

7. The wrist strap of claim 4, wherein the strap further comprises a means for connecting ends of the strap to form the loop.

8. A wrist strap for use with gymnastic equipment having a bar held by a gymnast, the wrist strap comprising: a wrist band secured around the wrist of the gymnast; and one or more straps attached to the wrist band to form a loop around the bar, the loop being formed by the releasable connection of end of each of the one or more straps.

9. The wrist strap of claim 8, further comprising a buckle at the ends of the one or more straps for facilitating the releasable connection.

10. A method for preventing a fall from a bar of gymnastic equipment held by a gymnast, the method comprising: securing a wrist band around one or more wrists of the gymnast; and securing one or more straps to the wrist band to form a loop around the bar.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein the securing comprises securing a wrist band to each wrist of the gymnast.

12. The method of claim 10, wherein the securing comprises securing a wrist band to one wrist of the gymnast.

13. The method of claim 10, wherein the securing comprises connecting ends of the one or more straps to each other to form the loop around the bar.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the connecting comprises releasably connecting the ends to facilitate the removal and securing of the loop from and to the bar, respectively.

15. The method of claim 13, wherein the connecting comprises adjustably connecting the ends such that the length of the loop is adjustable.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/671,686, filed Apr. 16, 2005, the entire contents of which is incorporated herein by its reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to safety and training aids for gymnasts and, more particularly, to gymnastics safety and training aid devices for the high bar and other apparatus.

2. Prior Art

Serious injury has often occurred as a result of young gymnasts loosing their grip while training on the high bar apparatus and falling. Similar injuries occur as a result of a gymnast loosing his or her grip on the high bar, parallel bars or the loop and falling. A need therefore exists in the art of gymnastics for preventing a gymnast from falling on the ground after loosing his or her grip on gymnastic equipment, such as the high bar, the loop or the parallel bars. Additionally, a need exists in the art of gymnastics for preventing a gymnast from striking gymnastic equipment, such as a high bar or parallel bar during a gymnastic routine or practice.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, a wrist strap is provided for use with gymnastic equipment having a bar held by a gymnast. The wrist strap comprising: a wrist band secured around the wrist of the gymnast; and one or more straps attached to the wrist band to form a loop around the bar.

The one or more straps can comprise two straps, one at each side of the wrist. Each of the two straps can further comprise a means for releasably connecting ends of the straps to form the loop.

The one or more straps can comprise a strap, the strap being connected to the wrist band by a portion of reduced torsional resistance. The portion of reduced torsional resistance can be one of a string or rope. The portion of reduced torsional resistance can be a reduced diameter portion of the strap. The strap can further comprise a means for connecting ends of the strap to form the loop.

Also provided is a wrist strap for use with gymnastic equipment having a bar held by a gymnast. The wrist strap comprising: a wrist band secured around the wrist of the gymnast; and one or more straps attached to the wrist band to form a loop around the bar, the loop being formed by the releasable connection of end of each of the one or more straps.

The wrist strap can further comprise a buckle at the ends of the one or more straps for facilitating the releasable connection.

Still provided is a method for preventing a fall from a bar of gymnastic equipment held by a gymnast. The method comprising: securing a wrist band around one or more wrists of the gymnast; and securing one or more straps to the wrist band to form a loop around the bar.

The securing can comprise securing a wrist band to each wrist of the gymnast.

The securing can comprise securing a wrist band to one wrist of the gymnast.

The securing can comprise connecting ends of the one or more straps to each other to form the loop around the bar. The connecting can comprise releasably connecting the ends to facilitate the removal and securing of the loop from and to the bar, respectively. The connecting can comprise adjustably connecting the ends such that the length of the loop is adjustable.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the apparatus of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying drawings where:

FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic view of a first embodiment of a gymnastics safety device harness.

FIG. 2 illustrates the gymnastics safety device harness of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 illustrates another embodiment of a gymnastics safety device harness.

FIG. 4 illustrates another embodiment of a gymnastics safety device harness.

FIG. 5 illustrates an alternative means for connecting the gymnastics safety device harness to the gymnastics equipment.

FIG. 6 illustrates a conventional high bar having a PVC sleeve disposed over the high bar.

FIGS. 7-9 illustrate an embodiment of a bar sleeve for use with the high bar.

FIGS. 10 and 11 illustrate two embodiments of clamps for use with the bar sleeve of FIGS. 7-9.

FIG. 12a illustrates an isometric view of an embodiment of a bar sleeve.

FIG. 12b illustrates the bar sleeve of FIG. 12a in an opened configuration.

FIG. 13 illustrates a sectional view and exploded view of an embodiment of a bar sleeve.

FIG. 14 illustrates a schematic of two bar sleeves mounted over a high bar and being held by a gymnast.

FIGS. 15 and 16 illustrate a schematic view of the gymnastics safety device harness of FIG. 1 in combination with the bar sleeve of FIG. 6.

FIG. 17 illustrates a schematic view of the gymnastics safety device harness of FIG. 3 in combination with the bar sleeve of FIG. 6.

FIG. 18 illustrates a schematic view of the gymnastics safety device harness of FIG. 4 in combination with the bar sleeve of FIG. 6.

FIG. 19 illustrates an embodiment of a bar sleeve for attachment of a harness strap.

FIG. 20 illustrates another embodiment of a bar sleeve for attachment of a harness strap.

FIG. 21 illustrates a wrist strap of the prior art for use to secure the wrist of a gymnast to a bar.

FIG. 22 illustrates the wrist strap of FIG. 21 attached to a bar.

FIGS. 23 and 24 illustrate an embodiment of a wrist strap.

FIG. 25 illustrates another embodiment of a wrist strap.

FIG. 26 illustrates a schematic of a gymnast above the high bar where the gymnast is vulnerable to injury due to striking the bar.

FIG. 27 illustrates a schematic of a gymnast parallel to the high bar where the gymnast is vulnerable to injury due to striking the bar.

FIG. 28 illustrates an embodiment of a mechanism for preventing a gymnast from striking a bar.

FIG. 29 illustrates another embodiment of a mechanism for preventing a gymnast from striking a bar.

FIGS. 30-32 illustrate another embodiment of a mechanism for preventing a gymnast from striking a bar.

FIGS. 33 and 34 illustrate another embodiment of a mechanism for preventing a gymnast from striking a bar.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Although the present invention is applicable to numerous types of gymnastic equipment, it is particularly useful in the environment of the high bar, the loop and the parallel bars. Therefore, without limiting the applicability of the present invention to the high bar, the loop and the parallel bars, it will be described in such environment. The fall protection methods and apparatus and its various embodiments are described first for the use on a high bar. Their use in gymnastic parallel bars and loops is similar and is then briefly described.

The methods and apparatus disclosed herein for protecting a falling gymnast use a means of loosely “attaching” the gymnast to the bar such that in the case that the gymnast grip on the bar is lost, the gymnast is safely suspended via the attachment means to the bar, thereby preventing the gymnast from falling to the ground below.

The attachment means can provide suspension by at least at two points, and can be symmetric and on either side of the gymnast, so that following loss of the grip; the gymnast is minimally turned and twisted around. The falling gymnast can end up held to the bar with his or her head up. In addition, the device can have a certain amount of elasticity in the direction of the fall to minimize a sudden stopping of the gymnast following a fall. The entire device can be lightweight and minimally interfere with the gymnast routines and exercise. To make the safety device acceptable by both parents and trainers, the device can be user friendly, e.g., be easy to put on with simple and minimal adjustments; be comfortable to wear; be easy to attach to the bar; not require a permanent component on the bar since most high bars are also used by more advanced gymnasts and without the same safety devices; and be easily attached and detached to the bar by the trainer for easy mounting and dismounting of the gymnast without requiring additional personnel.

A basic operation of an embodiment of a safety device and/or training aid (collectively referred to hereinafter as safety devices or apparatus) is as follows. In the event that the gymnast losses his/her grip on the bar and begins to uncontrollably leave the bar, securing straps, which are connected at one end to the high bar via certain bar attachments and at the other end to the gymnast via a certain harness, would suspend the gymnast to the high bar and prevent the gymnast from falling to the floor. The gymnast will then remain suspended via the harness until he/she is safely dismounted with the assistance of an attendee.

FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic of a first embodiment of a gymnastics safety harness of the type that is worn around the gymnast's chest, such that in the case of a fall, the weight of the gymnast 101 is supported by the harness below the shoulder region, with a relatively uniform pressure distribution over support area. As shown in FIG. 2, the gymnastics safety device comprises a safety harness 100. The safety harness 100 consists of the following main components. A chest harness 103 which is worn around the chest, just below the shoulder. The harness 103 is preferably made out of a strong and relatively non-extensible fabric, such as a nylon based fabric, with the surfaces that are in contact with the body, particularly under the shoulder area, padded (padding not shown in FIG. 2) for comfort. The back of the harness 103 can be equipped with the means to adjust it so that it is firmly positioned around the chest area. The preferred method of making the harness 103 adjustable to various chest sizes is by constructing the back portion with one or more pairs of relatively non-extensible straps 108 (such as nylon based strap material commonly used in harnesses), which are connected by adjustable buckles 109. Such straps and buckles are well known in the art.

Two shoulder strap loops 104 are fixed (e.g., such as being sewn) to the harness 103, and go around the gymnast's shoulders (see FIG. 1). The harness 100 further has a high bar attachment means 106 comprising two pairs of straps 111 and 112. The lower strap 111 is attached to the strap loop 104, via a permanently sewn loop 116. Alternatively, the loop 116 may also be made using a buckle 113. The lower strap 111 can be directly attached to the top of the loop 104.

The upper straps 112, form loops 105 around the bar 102, and is secured preferably by a quick release safety hook 114. One part of the safety hook 114 is preferably attached permanently to the end of the strap 112 and the other part of the safety hook is permanently attached to the same side of the strap 112, certain distance below to allow free passage of the bar 102 through the resulting loop. Alternatively, the straps 112 may be attached securely to karabiners 136 (see FIG. 5), which can then be quickly and safely attached to the bar or rings.

Each pair of straps 111 and 112 is attached together by an adjustable buckle 115. The purpose for the adjustable buckle 115 is to allow the total length of the two straps to be adjustable to match the gymnast's arm length. In general, this length is adjusted such that in case of grip loss in the position shown in FIG. 1, the gymnast would drop as small a distance down as possible, i.e., enough slack is to be provided so that the device would not interfere with the movements of the gymnast during his/her exercise.

The straps 111 and 112 can be made out of the same material as was described for the loop 104. A relatively small portion of the strap 111 or/and strap 112 can be made with a relatively small longitudinal flexible material (not shown) (e.g., formed with elastic threads in the vertical direction) so that in case of a fall, the gymnast is subjected to a minimal jerk as the harness suddenly interrupts the fall.

A pair of straps 107, which can be fixed (e.g., sewn) to the strap 112 are used to hold the suspending straps 111 and 112 close to the wrist and away from the gymnast head. The straps 107 are preferably initially open and can be closed using Velcro segments. The user may use additional holding straps 107 along the length of the arm.

FIG. 3 illustrates another embodiment of the gymnastics safety device comprising a lower abdominal harness 130, which goes over the waist of the gymnast with a groin segment 131 which passes between the legs and gets attached to the back portion of the harness 130, by a buckle, hook and loop materials (e.g., Velcro®) or the like. To better distribute the weight of the athlete over the buttock area, supporting surfaces (not shown) may also be provided on both sides of the segment 131. The harness 130 can be adjustable similar to the chest harness 103 in its back segment. In this embodiment, the harness can also be held around the chest area by an adjustable strap 132, which is fixed to the suspending straps 133 and 134. The straps 133 and 134 are preferably constructed in a manner similar to the suspenders of the previous embodiment to be adjustable and attachable to the bar with quick release safety hooks 114. To increase stability during a fall, the suspenders 133 and 134 may be constructed with a front and back straps, in which case only one adjustment means, preferably positioned on the back portion of each strap, will be required for each one of the straps.

In another embodiment, a combination of the aforementioned two embodiments is used as shown in FIG. 4. In this embodiment, the chest portion is essentially the same as the harness 100 shown in FIG. 2. The portion 130 and 131, as shown in FIG. 3, is also essentially the same. Straps 134 (preferably two front and two back straps) are used to connect the chest 103 and the waste 130 portions together. The lengths of the straps 134 are preferably adjustable using an adjusting buckle or other adjustment means, such as hook and loop materials.

The aforementioned harness embodiments may be adjustable to the chest, buttock and arm lengths. They may also be desired to be produced in several sizes in order to cover all gymnast sizes and genders and to limit the aforementioned ranges of adjustments.

A number of different type of straps could be used to secure the harness to the bar. The straps may be made of a rope, a woven strap, cloth, chains or the like. The securing straps may also be attached to the front of the harness as shown in FIG. 3, or they may be attached to the back or to the sides of the harness, or to two or all the three sides. Furthermore, the straps do not have to consist of pairs. Rather, any number of straps may be used. However, preferably, at least two straps are used so that they could also be secured to the wrist for added stability once the grip is lost, and to prevent the straps from getting entangled with the arms and hand during exercise. The securing straps are secured to the harness on the one end and to the bar on the other end.

The disclosed gymnastics safety device harnesses may also be used on the rings during the exercise. In early stages of training or during certain exercises, the disclosed gymnastics safety device harnesses may also be used on the parallel bars.

In the disclosed gymnastics safety device harnesses, the straps 106 are not used to carry a portion of the gymnast weight. However, the straps are snug enough to prevent a considerable drop when the gymnast looses his/her grip on the bar. In certain periods of training, however, it may be desired to have the straps to carry part of the gymnast weight. In such situations, the straps can be tightened to the required level to achieve the desired weight distribution. Although the harnesses are disclosed as having straps for securing the same around the body, the harness can also have a jacket or vest configuration (similar to a life vest but with lighter materials) with two or more buckles (also similar to life vests) to secure the harness to the torso.

To reduce the amount of friction between bars or loops and the hand, gymnasts routinely wear grippers that cover the surface of the palm and under the fingers (except the thumb) with leather or other similar materials. The contacting surface of the leather is usually made to be soft and highly porous and during practice is covered with chalk powder to reduce friction. The grippers also eliminate direct contact between the skin and the bar surface, thereby reducing the chances of skin erosion and injury.

During practicing various routines and related exercises, particularly for beginner gymnasts and for learning and practicing certain advanced routines, it is highly desirable to minimize friction between the hand and the bar and keep it minimal without relying on the gymnast for proper gripping posture and force and the quality of the gripper worn and the proper use of the chalk powder. In addition, it is desired to eliminate the chances of hand surface injury. It is also desired to eliminate the chances of one hand providing more frictional resistance to rotation about the bar than the other. For all the above reasons, trainers routinely cover a large central portion of the bar 102 with a plastic (usually PVC) tube (sleeve) 140, as shown in FIG. 6, and the gymnast 101 would then hold onto the outer surface of the tube rather than the bar directly, and performs his/her exercise and routine practice.

The tubular sleeves 140, however, are difficult to use since to insert one over the bar, the bar has to be taken off the posts. This process is very time consuming and consumes a considerable amount of training time. The problem becomes more serious when a gymnast has to train several portions of the exercise with the sleeve. In this case, after completing one portion, the gymnast has to wait several minutes before being able to complete the next portion. A similar problem arises when one gymnast needs the sleeve and the next one does not. For these reasons, the use of such sleeves are limited and the trainers refrain from making an extensible use of this very beneficial tool in order to avoid long waits during their insertion and removal.

Thus, bar sleeves are provided which remain securely on the bar. The bar sleeves can be cylindrical in shape with relatively thin walls, providing a slight clearance with the bar to allow them to rotate freely with minimal friction about the bar. The bar sleeves are strong enough so that as they are squeezed by the gymnast hand, the wall does not collapse and cause the sleeve to grab onto the bar surface.

FIGS. 7-9 illustrate an embodiment of the bar sleeves where a sleeve tube is made out of two or more longitudinal curved strips, each forming a circular arc, and together forming a cylinder with an essentially circular cross section. The number of such circular sections can be two, with each covering nearly half the circular perimeter of the sleeve tube. FIG. 7 shows the tubular sleeve 140, consisting of the two halves 141 and 142. The resulting tubular sleeve 140 is desired to fit over the bar 102, with a slight clearance between the sleeve 140 and the bar 102 to allow free rotation of the sleeve relative to the bar with minimal frictional resistance. A cross-section of the sleeve 140 and the bar is shown in FIG. 8. In an embodiment, the contacting surfaces 143 and 144 of the halves are not flat, but made out of mating surfaces, e.g., mating circular arc shaped surfaces as shown in FIG. 9. The purpose for providing such mating surfaces is to ensure that the two halves do not slip during use, thereby allowing the inner surfaces of the sleeve 140 to grab onto the bar 102.

To ensure that the bar attachments rotate smoothly around the bar, either the sleeve is made out of low friction materials such as Teflon®, or part or the entire inner surfaces of the sleeves are covered by a relatively thin low friction lining material such as Teflon® or hard plastics.

The strips 141 and 142 of the sleeve 140 are held together once the sleeve has been assembled on the bar 102, FIG. 7. This may be done in a number of ways, including the following:

1. Utilizing clamps to hold the circular arc segments pressed together. Many such (tube, pipe, etc.) type of clamps are well known in the art. The clamps can be quickly positioned and taken off the sleeve without any tools. In general, two clamps at both ends of the sleeve and depending on the length of the sleeve, one or possibly more clamps in between where they do not interfere with the user are suggested to be used. The clamp 145, front view of which is shown in the cross-section view of FIG. 10, is an example of an acceptable clamp. The clamp ring 145 acts as a preloaded spring once positioned over the sleeve 140 to provide an adequate clamping force. The clamp 145 is made as a circular loop from a strip (or wire) material with enough elasticity to act as a strong spring. The strip wounds around the sleeve and their overlapping ends 147 are bent outwards. By applying forces 146 to the ends 147 in the direction of the arrows, the preloading force is countered and the clamp can be removed (or similarly positioned at the desired location along the length of the sleeve).

2. A short tube 148 (e.g., around 1 inch long) made out of a relatively rigid material, such as plastic, FIG. 11, with an inner diameter slightly larger than the outer diameter of the sleeve with an internal lining 147 of an elastomeric material is slid over the sleeve to hold it firmly together. In FIG. 11, the front view of the clamp 148 is shown together with a cross-sectional view of the bar 102 and the sleeve 140. The inner diameter of the elastomeric lining is slightly smaller than the outer diameter of the sleeve in order to provide a preloading force to hold the sleeve components together. The inner surface of the lining is preferably made with a profile with small gaps 149 to allow for easy insertion and removal of the clamp.

3. A harness strap that is wrapped tightly around the sleeve and is held in place by a Velcro® segment. One end of the strap can be permanently fixed to one of the sleeve segments.

4. Any adjustable hose, pipe, splicing and the like clamp, preferably with a relatively long tightening bolt or nut handle or toggle type of lever. The clamps are preferably plastic and coated with a soft foam material such as Neoprene, leaving no sharp edges.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the sleeve 150 is made out of two hinged segments 151 and 152 as shown in FIGS. 12a and 12b. The halves 151 and 152 are connected with at least one hinge 153 and are locked together with a built in locking mechanisms such as the male and female locking portions 154 and 155. Depending on the locking mechanism, shoulders 156 may be needed to accommodate the locking mechanisms. The hinges 153 may be rotary, may be living joints as shown in the embodiment of FIG. 13 described below. During assembly over the bar, the two halves 151 and 152 are opened, placed around the bar, and are closed and locked in place. The gymnast would perform his or her training or routine by holding the bar sleeves instead of the bar and the bar sleeves would rotate relative to the bar. The two halves 151 and 152 are removed by unlocking and opening up the two halves.

An alternative method of locking the two halves 151 and 152 together as the sleeve is assembled around the bar is by locking latches, which are well known in the art, and that are molded or adhered onto and/or later machined into the sleeve halves at one or more positions along the length of the sleeve.

In another embodiment of a bar sleeve 160, a cross-section of which is shown in FIG. 13, the sleeve is made out of two halves 161 and 162. The two halves 161 and 162 are connected to each other by an elastomeric strip 163, which makes the cross-section of the sleeve to become substantially circular. The strip 163 is either molded over the sleeve halves or is attached to the sleeve halves by adhesives. The sleeve half 161 is provided with surface features 164 and 165 along its edge surfaces that mate with features 166 and 167 on the other sleeve half 162 when assembled. The mating surfaces 164-166 are shown in FIG. 13 to be circular, however, any other surface geometry that provides for minimal slippage between the two halves 161 and 162 is acceptable. In FIG. 13, the sleeve halves 161 and 162, and the strip 163 are also drawn as an exploded view with the solid arrows 168 showing the direction in which they are brought together for assembly into the sleeve 160.

To position the sleeve 160 over the bar, the user opens the two halves as shown in FIG. 13c, place it over the bar and close the sleeve over the bar. The strip 163 is preferable molded or adhered to the haves 161 and 162 when assembled. Thereby in their normal position, the halves 161 and 162 are biased by the elastomeric strip 163 to be closed shut. With this bias, the sleeve 160 is automatically closed once positioned around the bar 102. With this embodiment, a holding clamp may not be necessary during certain routines.

Once sleeve 160 if positioned around the bar, the sleeve may be locked in its position by any one of the aforementioned clamping devices.

The above bar sleeves may be covered by a thin layer of relatively soft material such as leather or similar synthetic materials to provide for a better grip.

In FIGS. 1-4 and 6, the sleeve is shown to be long and span enough length of the bar so that the gymnast could hold it with both of his/her hands. The sleeves may, however, be short and long enough for only one hand. FIG. 14 shows a schematic of such shorter sleeves 170 as mounted over a high bar 102 and being held by a gymnast 101. One advantage of short sleeves is the reduction in the contact area between the bar and the inner surface of the bar and the possibility to generate relatively large friction forces and wear of the inner surfaces due to the bending of the bar during exercise.

In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1-6, the safety harness suspension strap or hook is positioned directly over the bar. Alternatively, as shown in FIGS. 15-18, the safety harness suspension strap or hook may be positioned over any of the long or short bar sleeves discussed above.

In another embodiment, the safety harness suspension strap or hook is first securely attached to the bar sleeve(s), and the sleeves are then positioned over the bar. This embodiment can be used with the aforementioned short bar sleeves as shown in FIG. 15. This would minimize the time that the trainer has to take to mount the sleeves and then attach the safety harness suspension straps or hooks to the sleeve or directly to the bar.

A number of different type of straps and hooks could be used to secure the harness to the bar sleeve. In one embodiment, the straps 175 are secured directly to the sleeve 172 using eyes or slots 173 in the sleeve, as shown in FIG. 19. Although FIG. 19 shows the strap 175 being looped over itself to lock the same in place and to lock the strap at a certain length, a buckle may be provided to lock the strap at a certain length. The straps 175 may also be permanently attached to the sleeves 172.

Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 20, strap 181 can be provided with an attached Karabiner 182, which in turn hooks to an extension 183 on the body of the sleeve 184 through a provided hole 185.

Currently, as shown in FIG. 21, wrist straps used by gymnastics are formed by twisting straps 190 into a FIG. 8. One end of a strap of an appropriate length is twisted and then overlapping a short length and sewing it to it other end. The required length is dependent on the size of the hand that is intended to use the twisted strap. The user would place the mid-portion of the FIG. 8 shaped twisted strap 190 over the bar 102, bend them over to line up the two end loops, pass his/her hand through the front loop 193 in the direction of arrow 191 and then through the loop 194 in the direction of arrow 192 as shown in FIG. 22, and then grabs the bar. The twisted strap is made to be short enough for the hand to barely pass through, thereby for the two end loops to be positioned over the wrist, allowing minimal play within the loops. As a result, if the gymnast lets the bar go while mounted on the bar, the wrists will get caught in the two loops, preventing the gymnast from falling to the ground and suspended by the wrists to the bar.

The FIG. 8 shaped straps 190 shown in FIGS. 21-22 work well in preventing a gymnast from falling if he/she loses grip on the bar. However, there is still a risk that the hand goes through the aforementioned loops and let the gymnast fall. Even if one of the hands goes through the loop, the gymnast will be in a very awkward position and may injure his/her wrist. Injury to the wrist may occur even if neither one of the hand straps have come loose since to prevent the hand to go through the loops following loss of bar grip, the loops have to be fairly tightly held against the wrists. Then following the loss of bar gripping, the strap applies a very large deforming force on the wrist, thereby causing extreme discomfort and potentially injury to the wrist. For these reasons, such straps are not recommended for use on younger gymnasts and the older and fit gymnasts do not like to use them and regularly complain of wrist pain after their use.

There is, therefore a need for a more ergonomic device that would serve the same purpose without providing a possibility for fall and generating wrist pain and potential for wrist injury. Such an ergonomic device would also be a very useful training tool, since the trainers can allow the gymnast to practice routines more times without becoming concerned that gymnast fatigue would increase the possibility of a fall.

FIGS. 23 and 24 illustrate an embodiment of a wrist strap 200 having a padded strong wrist band 201 that is long enough to cover at least several inches of the arm and flare to cover 1-2 inches of the wrist. The band can be a flat piece that wraps around the wrist and is firmly attached to the wrist area and locked in place, e.g., by a strap, hook and loop fasteners or a buckle. Alternatively, the band can be cylindrical and snugly fit over the wrist. Straps 202 similar to those described for the previous embodiments are then provided on one (such as the outer side) or both sides of the hand. These straps 202 loop around the bar 102 by a quick release mechanism similar to the aforementioned embodiments, such as a buckle or hook and loop fasteners (not shown). If the gymnast looses his/her grip, he/she would then be suspended by the above straps, with the load of suspension being fairly uniformly distributed over the wrist area, thereby minimizing the possibility of straining the wrist.

The straps 202 of the ergonomic wrist straps 200 can be provided with very slight slack so that if the gymnast loses his/her grip, the gymnast hand is still close enough to the bar 102 to catch it again without having to be lifted to reach the bar.

The straps 202 may also be used with the loops and for certain routines and exercises with parallel bars, particularly for beginner gymnasts.

In certain exercises, the gymnast wants to let one hand go and rotate a half turn and grab the bar again, thereby changing the direction that he/she faces. For such moves, the gymnast need wear only one ergonomic wrist strap on the hand about which the body is to be rotated during the routine. In addition only one of the straps 202 can be used to attach the ergonomic wrist strap 200 to the bar 102. To prevent twisting of the two sides of the strap 202 about each other during this maneuver, thereby further tightening the strap onto the bar, the method of attachment of the strap 202 to the wrist band 201 can be slightly modified to allow free rotation of the straps loop 202 about the wrist band 201. In one such modification shown in FIG. 25, the strap 202 (only one such strap is shown in FIG. 25), and the quick release element (buckle) 203 are looped. The end of the loop is then attached to the wristband 201 by a strong but small diameter string or rope element 204. The element 204 may also be made out of the strap 202 material, which is rolled into a small diameter section to reduce its torsional resistance. The reason for using such elements 204 is to ensure that the aforementioned rotation of the gymnast minimally twist the strap 202 loop, thereby causing it to catch onto the bar 102 and prevent the gymnast hand from freely rotating over the bar.

The above disclosed ergonomic wrist strap and the FIG. 8 shaped straps 190 shown in FIGS. 21-22, may be used with any one of the bar sleeves disclosed above.

The gymnastics safety harness disclosed in the first part of this disclosure is highly effective in preventing the gymnast from being separated from the bar (or loop) and fall onto the ground below. However, if the gymnast looses his/her grip and fall while he/she has already rotated up and his or her head is above the bar, then during the fall the gymnast's head, face or upper body may strike the bar and cause injury.

This type of accident is not as serious as a direct fall to the ground, but can still cause serious injury. Such accidents occur mostly among the beginner gymnasts. This type of accident is particularly hard to prevent with current common practice in which the trainer is the only means of safety against a fall. During such falls, even if the trainer is alert and close to the gymnast and capable of catching the gymnast if he/she were falling to the ground, the trainer cannot also be in a position to prevent the gymnast from hitting the bar with their head or upper body in the aforementioned manner.

In one embodiment, a head protection helmet, preferably a lightweight and small helmet, is worn to protect the head itself during the ensuing impact with the bar. Such head protection gear, however, is cumbersome, interferes with the exercise by varying the inertia of the body unless they are very lightweight and small, they do not provide protection against impact on the face or upper body, and more importantly, they do not protect against the more serious neck injury. Protective devices that could be worn on the face, neck and the upper body do exist (such as protective gear worn by football players), but are too cumbersome and generally interfere with gymnastics routines and therefore impractical for a gymnast to wear.

A need, therefore, exists for a device to protect the gymnast from the aforementioned falls onto the bar that could cause head, neck and upper body injury. In this disclosure, a method and a number of devices are presented that provide for such protection. As indicated above, beginner gymnasts are the most vulnerable to such falls and the disclosed embodiments are intended mostly for their use and for use for higher skilled gymnasts who are practicing certain routines, particularly before having mastered them.

The disclosed devices are intended for use together with the aforementioned safety harnesses, since a falling gymnast that could strike the bar would most probably consequently fall to the ground and should therefore be protected from such falls as well.

Referring now to FIG. 26, consider a gymnast 210 who is positioned vertically in the position 211 and holding the bar 102 as shown schematically in FIG. 26. In FIG. 26, the gymnast is also shown in the forward position 212 and the backward position 213. FIG. 26 and other similar Figures which show a ground 215, the ground is shown closer to the bar than in actuality. Those skilled in the art will realize that the ground is at least as far from the bar, as generally further, as the length of the gymnast with outstretched arms. If the gymnast 211 is positioned vertically within the range of positions 212 and 213, his or her head is not going to clear the bar and would therefore strike the bar, and eventually fall to the ground 215. In FIG. 26, the vertical lines 214 indicate the width of the bar and therefore the limits within which the head would strike the bar.

The above range of positions, however, holds only if the gymnast arm is fully extended and in line with the body until moments before the fall. Such an assumption is obviously rarely true and the gymnast may be in any possible position just before loosing grip of the bar and in fact may have lost the grip only partially or not at all but allow, e.g., the elbow to bend and the shoulder rotate and come into contact or impact the bar while still holding on to the bar. One such fall is illustrated in the schematics of FIG. 27. In FIG. 27, the gymnast 210 is shown in the position 216 at certain point during the exercise, i.e., horizontal with the face area above the bar 102. If the gymnast is not rotating fast enough to continue his/her movement and passes this position (upward or downward), and if he/she should lose his/her grip on the bar and or if he/she could no longer support his/her weight on the bar, then the arms would collapse or the grip on the bar could be lost and the gymnast could fall face down on the bar (position 217).

It is appreciated that infinite such situations that could result in the bar impacting the head, the face, the neck, and the upper body may arise. The method disclosed below is intended to provide the basis for the development of safety devices that would prevent the aforementioned injury causing impacts from occurring.

The disclosed method is based on providing mechanisms that prevent the gymnast head (to, face and back), neck, and the upper body from approaching the bar too closely to cause an impact during any of the aforementioned falls, i.e., falls from any position of the gymnast above the bar. The disclosed method accomplishes this task by constraining the motion of the gymnast (preferably from below the shoulder area to the top of the head) to a space that does not include the bar and a short distance from it (to provide a margin of safety). Such motion constraining mechanisms allow the gymnast to perform most exercises, particularly the exercises that beginner gymnasts usually perform (the term mechanism is used very broadly and is not intended to include only essentially link type of mechanisms). Such basic motion constraining mechanisms include the following:

1. The mechanism is attached to the gymnast (preferably shoulder area or below) on one side of the bar on the other side. The mechanism allows the distance between the gymnast and the bar points of connections to vary freely but limits it such that the head could not come too close to the bar. An example of such mechanisms is shown in the schematics of FIG. 28.

2. The mechanism is only attached to the gymnast (preferably shoulder area or below). The mechanism then provides surfaces that come into contact with the bars first and thereby prevent the vulnerable areas of the gymnast, i.e., mainly the entire head, neck and shoulder area, to come in contact with the bar. The forces of impact are preferably transmitted through the mechanism to the shoulder area. The mechanism is constructed with certain amount of structural flexibility and padding so that the peak impact force is significantly reduced. An example of such mechanisms is shown in the schematics of FIG. 29.

3. The mechanism consists of at least two separate parts, at least one of which is attached to the gymnast (preferably shoulder area or below), and at least one part to the bar. During the exercise, if the head and neck and shoulder area gets close to the bar, then surfaces from the mechanism part attached to the bar comes into contact with surfaces on the mechanism part attached to the gymnast, thereby preventing the gymnast head and neck and shoulder area to strike the bar. The forces of impact are preferably transmitted through the mechanism to the shoulder area. The mechanism is constructed with certain amount of structural flexibility and padding so that the peak impact force is significantly reduced. An example of such mechanisms is shown in the schematics of FIGS. 30-32.

4. The mechanism is fixed to the bar alone and is provided with enough padding so that in the case of a fall onto the bar, the force of impact between the bar and the gymnast is significantly reduced. This embodiment provides a very simple solution. The device is effective for most falls except those that could impart a dangerous level of strain on the neck, e.g., direct and vertical fall with the head onto the bar, or hitting the face or back of the head to the bar, or hitting the bar with the chin while the gymnast slides down the bar after falling over it at the chest level. It should, however, be noted that all the possible modes of gymnast falls onto the bar are from a relatively short vertical distance, with the maximum distance being the length of the arm. Therefore the present embodiment is generally effective in preventing serious injuries to the gymnast in most of the fall, except for the aforementioned few cases. An example of such mechanisms is shown in the schematics of FIG. 33.

Referring now in detail to FIG. 28, an embodiment of the motion constraining mechanism (number 1 above) to provide head, face, neck and shoulder impact protection is shown. The motion constraining mechanism consists of a relatively stiff frame 220, which is fixed to the gymnast 210 by chest and shoulder harness 226 and a lower harness 228. The harnesses 226 and 228 can be straps with fasteners such as buckles or hook and loop fasteners that provide for a size adjustment. At least one relatively rigid link or frame 221 is attached to the frame 220 by at least one rotary joint 222. A second relatively rigid link or frame 223 is attached to the link or frame 221 by at least one rotary joint 224 on one end, and is attached to the bar 102 by at least one sleeve 225, which is free to rotate about the bar 102 by the provided small clearance. The links or frames 221 and 223 are long enough to allow the gymnast to fully extend his/her arms as shown in FIG. 28. However, at least one stop 227 is provided so that as the gymnast head gets too close to the bar, it would stop the aforementioned two links or frames to get any closer, thereby preventing the gymnast head from striking the bar. If the gymnast loses his/her grip of the bar while positioned somewhere above the bar, the motion constraining mechanism of FIG. 28 would limit how close the head, face, neck and shoulders could come to the bar. Following such a fall, the gymnast body would rotate towards the ground about the sleeve 225 and a safe distance from the bar since the center of mass of the gymnast is away from the sleeve and the bar. The previously described safety harness would then prevent the gymnast from falling to the ground. In an embodiment, the frame 220 is attached to the chest harness 103 and waste harness 130 of the gymnastics safety harness shown in FIG. 4.

The shoulder harness is made with shoulder straps that are securely held against the gymnast so that the force transmitted by the motion constraining mechanism during a fall is transmitted to the shoulder area.

It is appreciated by those skilled in the art that the aforementioned motion constraining mechanism does not have to be constructed with linkage type of mechanisms with rotary joints. For example, the mechanism can be constructed with living joints to reduce the weight and cost. Alternatively, the mechanism could be constructed with segmented beams that are connected with living (bending) joints with the width of the beams limiting the total flexing of the beam.

In the aforementioned motion constraining mechanisms, the position of the stop 227 or one or both link lengths can be adjustable to allow it to be used by gymnasts of a range of sizes.

In FIG. 28, the side view of the mechanism is shown. The motion constraining mechanism is, however, preferably symmetric, with two sets of links 221 and 223 and the related joints, each attached with a sleeve 225 to the bar 102 on both sides of the gymnast hands. Alternatively, the links 223 are attached to the long sleeve 140 (FIG. 6) or short sleeve 170 (FIG. 15).

The schematics of an embodiment of the motion constraining mechanism (number 2 above) to provide head, face, neck and shoulder impact protection is shown in FIG. 29. The motion constraining mechanism consists of a relatively stiff frame 230, which is fixed to the gymnast 210 by chest and shoulder harness 231 and a lower harness 235 such as by straps having buckles or hook and loop fasteners. To the frame 230 is attached a “C” shaped frame 238, which is constructed with a relatively rigid material, with the back, middle and front portions indicated as 232, 233 and 234. If the gymnast loses his/her grip and falls while above the bar as shown in FIG. 29, either of the portions 232, 233 or 234 of the “C” frame 238 strikes the bar 102, thereby preventing the gymnast from striking the bar 102. Following this impact, since the center of mass of the gymnast is away from the bar 102, the weight of the gymnast would cause the gymnast to rotate and tend to fall down towards the ground, at which point the aforementioned gymnast fall protection harness would prevent his/her fall to the ground. The “C” frame is preferably constructed as a structure with certain amount of bending flexibility to reduce the impacting forces transmitted to the gymnast shoulders through the shoulder harness 231. As described above with regard to FIG. 28, the embodiment of FIG. 29 is shown from the side with one C-shaped frame 238, however, two such frames, one on each side of the gymnast can be provided.

The schematics of an embodiment of the motion constraining mechanism (number 3 above) to provide head, face, neck and shoulder impact protection is shown in FIG. 30. In an embodiment, the motion constraining mechanism consists of a relatively stiff frame 240, which is fixed to the gymnast 210 by chest and shoulder harness 241. A lightweight but relatively rigid beam 242 (preferably hollow tube and made out of a strong and hard plastic) is rigidly attached to the frame 240. The beam 242 extends past the arms as shown in FIG. 31. Two structures 243 forming a semi-circular surface as seen from the lateral view of FIG. 32 (not shown in FIG. 30 for clarity) are attached to the bar 102, far enough from the gymnast so that they do not interfere with his/her routines. Then in case that the gymnast 210 loses grip of the bar 102 and falls down towards the bar 102, the beam 242 limits how close the gymnast head could get to the bar as it reaches the semi-circular surfaces of the structure 243. The structure 243 and the beam 242 protect the gymnast during a fall from any position above the bar.

The schematics of an embodiment of the motion constraining mechanism (number 4 above) to provide head, face, neck and shoulder impact protection is shown in FIG. 33. The motion constraining mechanism consists of a soft cushion 250 that is attached to the bar 102 between the two hands as shown in FIG. 33. The soft cushion may also be attached to the bar sleeves disclosed above. The cross section of a typical such cushion element 250 is shown in FIG. 34, however, the cross section can have other shapes, such as circular. In case the gymnast 210 loses grip of the bar 102, depending on his/her momentary position, the gymnast head, face or shoulders would first strike the cushion 250, which would significantly reduce the peak force that is applied to the gymnast. As shown in FIG. 33, the cushion 250 can be relatively tall and narrow (i.e., extends a short distance to both sides of the bar 102. Thereby, if the head strikes the cushion from the side, it would deflect it a certain distance away from the head. As a result, the cushion 250 pressures the head away from the bar and provides less vertical resistance

The embodiment shown in FIG. 29 may also be used to protect gymnasts from other falls, such as from parallel bar to the ground, or even from the high bar or rings over to the ground (mat), or other similar falls. In such cases, the “C” shaped frame 238 could be sized and provided with the capability of deforming to reduce the peak impact forces.

The frame 238 can be made out of relatively low damping material that would deform under the impact force like a spring, but would not readily rebound to through the gymnast back up or away, in the worst case off the mat to harder surfaces located the height of the mat down. To further improve safety, a net or a soft impact barrier wall (made from a material such as foam) may be placed around the mat to prevent the gymnast from falling over to the hard floor following such a rebound.

In the present applications, the shoulder area under the harness straps is preferably padded to distribute the force during the fall impact.

While there has been shown and described what is considered to be preferred embodiments of the invention, it will, of course, be understood that various modifications and changes in form or detail could readily be made without departing from the spirit of the invention. It is therefore intended that the invention be not limited to the exact forms described and illustrated, but should be constructed to cover all modifications that may fall within the scope of the appended claims.