Title:
Sports equipment handle and equipment associated therewith
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A handle is provided for sports equipment such as a lacrosse or hockey stick which includes cushioning and grip ribs. In one embodiment, the shaft of the handle defines one or more regions of reduced diameter or thickness including a plurality of elongate longitudinal grooves extending around the periphery thereof in circumferentially spaced-apart relationship. Interior cushioning ribs are defined in the region of the grooves by a layer of cover or coating material which is applied to the surface of the shaft and fills the grooves. In another embodiment, the shaft includes tapered regions in the shaft and the layer of cover or coating material fills the tapered regions to define cushioning ribs.



Inventors:
Filice, Gary W. (Moorpark, CA, US)
Meyer, Dean E. (Oakbrook, IL, US)
Carlson, Larry E. (Santa Clarita, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/375733
Publication Date:
01/11/2007
Filing Date:
03/15/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B59/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAMBERS, MICHAEL S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PERKINS COIE LLP - LOS GENERAL (POST OFFICE BOX 1247, SEATTLE, WA, 98111-1247, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A sports equipment handle comprising: an elongated shaft comprised of a first material and including at least one longitudinally extending region located between adjacent, circumferentially adjacent exterior shaft surfaces; and a cover comprised of a second material and that surrounds and overlies portions of said exterior surfaces in a manner whereby said handle has outer surface portions including said cover that are substantially uniform and said cover includes at least one portion of the increased thickness over said region.

2. The handle of claim 1 wherein: said shaft defines on exterior surface portions a plurality of elongated, flattened polygonal surfaces with said longitudinally extending region being defined between each circumferentially adjacent pair of said polygonal surfaces; and said cover defines a plurality of elongated longitudinal cushioning ribs overlying each of said longitudinally extending regions.

3. The handle of claim 2 which is associatable with a lacrosse head.

4. A handle for sports equipment comprising in combination: (a) an elongated, unitary, hollow shaft having generally polygonal exterior surface portions that are individually generally flattened and that longitudinally extend circumferentially adjacent said exterior surface portions adjoining along relatively narrow edge regions that extend longitudinally therebetween, said shaft being comprised of a first material that is relatively rigid and shape retaining, and (b) a cover adhered to and extending over said exterior surface portions of said shaft in a manner whereby said so covered shaft has outside surface portions that are substantially uniform, and said cover includes longitudinally extending portions that overlie said edge regions and that are generally radially thickened relative to circumferentially adjacent portions of said cover, said cover being comprised of a second material that is resilient, cushioning, soft and seemingly relatively tacky when contacted with another surface.

5. The handle of claim 4 wherein said shaft defines octagonal said exterior surface portions.

6. The handle of claim 5 wherein said shaft has two diametrically opposed and parallel exterior surface portions of substantially equal width, and the six remaining surface portions have a total width which is greater than the width of each of said parallel exterior surface portions with three of said six exterior surface portions each being on each side of said parallel exterior surface portions.

7. The handle of claim 4 wherein each of said edge regions defines a radially inwardly extending groove and said cover is radially thickened over each said groove and defines a longitudinally radially inwardly extending ridge adjacent outside surface portions of said so covered handle.

8. The handle of claim 4 where each of said edge regions defines an exteriorly convex curvature extending circumferentially between circumferentially adjacent said polygonal exterior surface portions and said cover is radially thickened over each said convex curvature and defines a longitudinally radially inwardly extending ridge adjacent outside surface portions of said so covered handle.

9. The handle of claim 4 wherein at least some of said edge regions each define a radially outwardly extending ridge and said cover is radially thickened between circumferentially adjacent said ridges so that said outside surface portions of the so covered handle extend uniformly between said circumferentially adjacent said ridges.

10. The handle of claim 9 wherein said cover is discontinuous over portions of said ridges.

11. The handle of claim 4 in which said shaft is inwardly tapered at each opposite end region thereof.

12. The handle of claim 11 wherein said cover is radially thickened in each of said tapered opposite end regions.

13. The handle of claim 12 where one end region of said so covered shaft is received in a socket cavity of a lacrosse head.

14. The handle of claim 12 wherein one end region of said so covered shaft is received in a socket cavity of a hockey stick head.

15. The handle of claim 12 wherein one end region of said so covered shaft is received in a socket cavity of a tennis racket head.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/666,449 filed Sep. 19, 2003 and published as Publication No. US-2005-0064964-A1 on Mar. 24, 2005, which is fully incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to sports equipment handles and, in particular, to handles with cushion and grip ribs that are particularly useful for lacrosse and hockey sticks.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Handles for sports equipment such as, for example, lacrosse sticks and hockey sticks are preferably polygonal in cross-sectional shape and include longitudinally extending elongate edges or corners which define ribs on the handle and provide a player with an improved grip. One disadvantage associated with these handles, however, is the increased risk of bodily injury and, particularly, the risk of lacerations which can occur when the sticks are swung about during the normal course of play and the edges make contact with another player. An additional disadvantage is the risk of damage to the handles from stick to stick contact during play.

There is a need in the field of sports equipment for an improved handle suitable for use as a lacrosse stick or a hockey stick to aid in overcoming such disadvantages. The improved handle needs to incorporate an elongated, structural base of a shaft which when viewed exteriorly is generally polygonally sided. Exterior surface portions of the base need to be overcoated with an adhering, resilient, soft cushioning cover. The cover should have a variable thickness, and the variations in cover thickness should extend generally longitudinally and preferably be related to the exterior polygonal configuration of the base. The cover should be adapted to cover base portions, to cushion edge portions thereof and to improve a player's grip of the handle. So far as now known, an improved handle with suitable such features has not previously been developed. The present invention is believed to achieve and satisfy the need for such an improved handle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention is directed in one aspect to a sports equipment handle suitable for use as a stick that is associated at one end thereof with sports equipment, such as a lacrosse head.

The handle comprises an elongated shaft and a cover. The shaft exteriorly defines a polygonal configuration, is preferably hollow and defines a longitudinally extending, relatively narrow edge or corner region extending along and located between each circumferentially adjacent pair of exterior, generally and preferably facially flattened, surface portions. The shaft is comprised of a first material that is preferably unitary and that is generally structurally rigid.

The cover extends over, is adhered to, and surrounds portions of shaft exterior surface portions in a manner whereby the outer surfaces of the handle including the cover are substantially uniform (or smooth) and continuously extend. The cover includes at least one portion of increased thickness (relative to other adjacent cover portions) that extends over at least one such longitudinally extending region of the shaft. The cover is comprised of a second material that preferably has a unitary composition, adheres to adjacent surface portions of the shaft, and is cushioning, resilient, soft and somewhat tacky to the touch.

The invention is directed in another aspect to combinations of the inventive handle structure with the head portions of sports equipment, such as lacrosse heads, hockey stick heads, tennis rackets, fishing nets, and the like which combinations display new, novel and improved characteristics.

Other and further objects, aims, features, purposes, advantages, embodiments, variations and uses will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the present specifications taken with the accompanying drawings and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings form part of this application, and numerals employed therein designate like parts throughout the same. In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of a lacrosse stick incorporating a handle constructed in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged, vertical cross-sectional view of a handle embodiment of the present invention taken along the line 2-2 in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged, fragmentary, vertical cross-sectional view of one of the corner regions of the handle embodiment of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a fragmentary perspective view of another embodiment of a handle of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a vertical cross-sectional view taken along the line 5-5 in FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a fragmentary perspective view of a further embodiment of a handle of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged, vertical cross-sectional view taken along the line 7-7 in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is an enlarged, fragmentary, vertical cross-sectional view of one of the corner regions of the handle embodiment of FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is an enlarged, fragmentary perspective view of the forward portion of a handle constructed in accord with the embodiment of FIGS. 6-8, the handle being in functional association with the handle-receiving portion of a fragmentary but conventional lacrosse head, the forward portions of the handle being tapered and being broken away to illustrate constructional details;

FIG. 10 is an enlarged, fragmentary perspective view of the rearward portion of the handle shown in FIG. 9, the handle being in functional association with a conventional associatable rear end cap, the rear end portions of the handle being tapered and being broken away to illustrate constructional details;

FIG. 11 is a perspective, partially diagrammatic view of the handle embodiment of FIGS. 6-10 in illustrative functional association with a lacrosse head;

FIG. 12 is a perspective, partially diagrammatic view of the handle embodiment of FIGS. 6-10 in illustrative functional association with a hockey stick; and

FIG. 13 is a perspective, partially diagrammatic, view of the handle embodiment of FIGS. 6-10 in illustrative functional association with a tennis racket, the rearward end portions of the handle being optionally provided with a hand-graspable wrap.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The invention disclosed herein is, of course, susceptible of embodiment in many different forms. Shown in the drawings and described herein are preferred embodiments of the handle of the present invention. It will be understood, however, that the present disclosure is an exemplification of the principles of the invention and does not limit the invention to the illustrated embodiments.

It is also understood that the Figures herein do not necessarily show details of the handle that are known to the art and that will be recognized by those skilled in the art as such. The detailed descriptions of such elements are not necessary to an understanding of the invention. Accordingly, such elements are herein represented only to the degree necessary to aid in an understanding of the features of the present invention.

FIG. 1 depicts a lacrosse stock 20 including a head 22 and an elongated handle 24 which is constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

As shown in FIGS. 1-3, handle 24 includes an elongated, generally cylindrical, polygonally-shaped shaft 26 made of any suitable durable first material such as, for example, wood, metal or a composite. Shaft 26 includes an exterior peripheral surface 28 and an interior surface 20 defining a hollow interior 32. In the embodiment of FIGS. 1-3, shaft 26 is preferably octagonal in exterior shape; however, if desired, the shaft 26 can be formed with other polygonal exterior shapes.

Shaft 26 is characterized in that it includes two diametrically opposed and parallel exterior faces or panels 34 and 36 which are of equal width and six additional exterior faces or panels 38, 40, 42, 44, 46 and 48 which are all of an equal width greater than the width of each of the faces 34 and. Faces 38, 40 and 42 extend circumferentially about the exterior shaft surface 28 between faces 34 and 36 on one half of the shaft 26 while faces 44, 46 and 48 are diametrically opposed to faces 38, 40 and 42, respectively, and extend circumferentially about the exterior shaft surface 28 between faces 34 and 36 on the opposite half of the shaft 26. Shaft 26 is further characterized in that the exterior surface 28, in the regions thereof between each of the exterior faces thereof, defines a plurality of elongated and longitudinally extending generally arcuate and concavely shaped grooves, depressions, dimples or recessed edges 50. Recessed edges 50 are located in circumferentially spaced apart, parallel relationship at intervals situated between adjacent pairs of faces 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46 and 48 around the exterior shaft surface 28. Thus, between each adjacent pair of the exterior flattened faces 34-48 of shaft 26, longitudinal recessed edges 50 are defined in the exterior shaft surface 28.

Handle 24 further includes a coat or cover 52 which preferably is comprised of a unitary composition and which surrounds and generally covers, overlies and adheres to exterior surface portions 28 of the shaft 26. Preferably, portions of each of the respective polygonal exterior faces of shaft 26 are covered with cover 52. Cover 52 preferably comprises a soft, pliable, resilient, deformable, impact-absorbing and, tactilely, seemingly relatively somewhat tacky when contacted with another surface such as the skin of a hand. The cover 52 can be comprised of a thermoplastic material including any suitable elastomers and rubbers such as, for example, Santoprene™.

Cover 52 as applied includes a plurality of generally flat outer surface portions 53 that each overlie an individual one of the faces 34-48 of the shaft 26. Each pair of the circumferentially adjacent flat outer surface portions 53 extends circumferentially or laterally to meet the other and to define a longitudinally extending edge or corner 54. The corners 54 overlie radially the recessed edges 50 defined in the exterior shaft surface 28.

Although the cover 52 may be either a pre-formed, pre-molded member or an overlay applied directly to the outer surface 28 of the shaft 26 using any one of several known processes including casting, interference fitting, spraying, injection molding, rotational molding, insert molding or over molding, with a bonding agent as may be necessary to achieve an adherence between adjacent respective surface portions of the cover 52 and the shaft 26, one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention encompasses the use of a Sticktrusion™ process in which the material comprising the cover 52 is co-extruded onto the exterior shaft surface 28. The process initially entails connecting together axially a plurality of the shafts 26 along the proximal to distal respective ends thereof with plugs to create an extended and continuous length of shaft material. Thereafter, a feeder pushes the shafts through a stationary heater station which activates the surface energy of each of the shafts. The shafts, oriented radially, are then passed or fed directly to and through the interior of a stationary crosshead extrusion die corresponding in shape to the polygonal (preferably octogonal) shape of the cover 52 and including circumferentially positioned ports adapted to deposit thin layers of the material comprising the cover 52 directly onto the faces of the exterior shaft surface and into the recesses 50 defined in the exterior shaft surface 28. The shafts are then passed through the interior of a stationary cooling station where the material comprising the cover 52 is cured and bonded to the exterior shaft surfaces 28. The shafts are then separated about the plugs thereof.

In accordance with the invention, the presence of the longitudinal recessed edges 50 in the exterior shaft surface 28 defines longitudinal strips in the region of the recessed edges 50 wherein the thickness of the material comprising the cover 52 is greater than the thickness of the cover material overlying the flat outer surface of each of the exterior polygonal faces thereof. As a result, in the embodiment wherein the cover 52 comprises a layer of material which is applied to the shaft using the Sticktrusion™ process, the recessed edges 50 in combination with the material comprising the cover 52 together define a plurality of elongated, longitudinally interiorly extending and protruding cushioning ribs 56 which fill and overlie the recessed edges 50 defined in the exterior shaft surface 28 while advantageously preserving the preferably cross-sectionally uniform outer polygonal (preferably octagonal) geometry of the cover 52 and thus the handle 24.

In the embodiment where the cover 52 is a separate, pre-formed and pre-molded member, the cover 52 defines a plurality of elongated longitudinally extending ribs 56 protruding unitarily outwardly from the interior surface 55 of cover 52 in and under the region of the corners 54. In this embodiment, cover 52 is applied, as by a shrink-wrap or like process, to the shaft 26 and positioned thereon in a relationship wherein the ribs 56 thereon overlie and fill the recessed edges 50.

By reason of the soft, pliable, deformable and impact-absorbing properties of the material comprising the cover 52, the interior ribs 56 define elongate longitudinal edges on the handle 24 which provide an increased tack and grip friction between the handle and a player's hands while also simultaneously providing cushioned corner or edge regions 54 which reduce the risk of bodily and facial injury and damage to sticks which is normally associated with the use and swinging of lacrosse and hockey sticks during the normal course of play. The present invention, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 wherein the cover 52 incorporates interior rather than exterior ribs, thus provides an attractive and suitable advantageous alternative to handles believed to be currently available where longitudinal ribs protrude outwardly from the exterior surface of the cover and adversely affect the outer uniform polygonal and facially flat geometry of the handle.

Another embodiment of the inventive handle structure is shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. Here the shaft 726 incorporates a plurality of circumferentially adjacent, longitudinally extending panels. Circumferentially between six panels, raised ribs 756, 758, 762 and 764 are defined so that together each panel in combination defines a plurality of circumferentially spaced-apart, broadened, longitudinally elongated recesses or depressions in the peripheral exterior shaft surface 728 that are located between these raised ribs.

A cover generally designated by 754 comprises a plurality of elongated longitudinal strips of material 796 which are positioned, applied and secured by adhesive or the like into the recesses defined by and existing between each of the respective ribs except for diametrically opposed panels 760 and 766 which each extend at the radially elevated level of their edge-defining ribs. As such, the cover 754 does not extend over the panels 760 and 766 so over these panels provides no cushioning and friction characteristics while concurrently maintaining the uniform outer polygonal geometry of the handle 724.

Alternatively, if desired, it is understood that the cover 754 may comprise a single layer of material applied to and extending generally over all the exterior portions 728 of the shaft 726 by utilizing any one of the several known above indicated methods and processes for securing a second material to the surface of a first material including, for example, the Sticktrusion™ method described earlier with respect to the handle 24 or any one of other suitable or applicable processes.

Another embodiment of a handle structure of the invention is shown illustratively in FIGS. 6-8. This embodiment can be considered similar to that shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. Similar components are similarly identified by similar numerals except that prime designations are added to the numerals for distinction. A principal difference between this embodiment and that of FIGS. 2 and 3 lies in the circumstance that in place of the recessed edges 50 in the shaft 26, here, in shaft 26′ the adjacent exterior faces of respective pairs of panels 34′, 36′, 38′, 40′, 42′, 44′, 46′ and 48′, are unitarily joined by uniform arcuate edge curvatures 51′ of short circumferential extent. In the present embodiment, the cover 52′ is placed over the curvatures 51′ and the indicated associated panels. The cover 51′ is compositionally similar to that of cover 52 and is, similarly to cover 52, uniformly extended over the panels 34′, 36′, 38′, 40′, 42′, 44′, 46′ and 48′, the cover 52′ is flattened over each panel, and longitudinally elongated edge portions between each of the adjacent portions of the cover 52′ above each panel are extended circumferentially to meet and to define the edge or corners 54′. Although the depth of cover 52′ over each curvature 51′ is preferably shallower than the depth of cover 52 over the recessed edges 50, it is found that useful and sufficient cushioning, and other desirable features, are achieved by the cover 52′ in this embodiment.

If desired, the handle 24 or another embodiment of the invention can be provided with tapered regions at each of its respective opposite end portions, such as illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10 for the embodiment of FIGS. 6-8. Thus, the handle 24′ is illustratively provided with opposed tapered frustroconically shaped end portions 58 and 60 each having a diameter designated D1 which is less than the diameter D2 of the remaining, non-tapered center portion of the shaft 36. Proximal end portion 58 is tapered inwards proceeding forward and adapted to be fitted into the socket end of the head 22 wherein end portion 58 tapers inwardly and forward, preferably corresponding, into the socket end of the head 22. Distal end portion 60 tapers inwardly and rearwardly in the direction of the distal end of the shaft 26 and portion 60 is covered by a plug or cap 62 or the like.

The cover 52 surrounds the shaft 26 and may be applied thereto using the Sticktrusion™ process described earlier or any one of the other several methods known in the art and described earlier herein for applying and securing a second layer of material to a first layer of material.

Thus, and as illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10, the handle 24 defines opposed end regions 64 and 66 in the area of the respective tapered shaft portions 58 and 60 wherein, in view of the manner in which the cover 52 is applied by the Sticktrusion™ process, the material comprising the cover 52 has a radial thickness, designated T1, which is greater than the radial thickness, designated T2, of the cover material overlying the non-tapered regions of the shaft 26 while still preserving the uniform and substantially constant outer diameter, designated D2, in FIGS. 9 and 10, and polygonal geometry of the handle 24 with the cover 52 thereon.

Moreover, and in those situations where the respective tapered end portions 58 and 60 are created by stretching of the material comprising the shaft 26, the respective tapered end portions 58 and 60 additionally define regions of the shaft 26 where the material comprising the shaft 26 has a thickness, designated T3, which is less than the thickness, designated T4, of the shaft material in the non-tapered regions of the shaft 26.

In accordance with the present invention, the respective tapered and thinned shaft end portions 58 and 60 create a handle for a lacrosse stick or the like with an improved “whip” or flexing curve in the region of the respective tapered portions for improved shot speed while still preserving the requisite outer polygonal, non-tapered shape and diameter D1, of the exterior of the handle surface. In addition to providing improved “whip” characteristics, the respective tapered end portions 58 and 60 create regions on the handle 24 with increased or improved cushion and friction characteristics by virtue of an increased cover thickness in the region of the respective tapered end portions 58 and 60.

Although not shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, it is understood that the invention is not restricted to the incorporation of tapered end portions but includes any handle configuration or embodiment utilizing the present invention that incorporates a restriction. The shaft 26, for example, can be recessed at any point along the length thereof so as to create a region or regions of reduced diameter or thickness. It is also understood that the material comprising the cover 52 can be tinted in the regions thereof overlying and surrounding the respective tapered end portions 58 and 60 thus allowing a player to visually discern and identify the handle regions with improved cushion, friction and/or whip characteristics.

It will be readily apparent from the foregoing detailed description of the invention and the illustrative associated Figures, examples and embodiments that numerous variations and modifications may be effected without departing from the true spirit and scope of the novel concepts or principles of this invention.