Title:
Athletic unitard to position and secure protective equipment
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A one piece, athletic garment designed to secure in position various types of protective padding used in contact sports without restricting movement or flexibility.



Inventors:
Davis, David O. (Hopkins, SC, US)
Application Number:
11/710317
Publication Date:
08/30/2007
Filing Date:
02/23/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41D13/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ANDERSON, AMBER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Stephen R. Chapman (Seneca, SC, US)
Claims:
What I claim is:

1. A unitard adapted to securing protective padding for optimal protection and minimal restriction of movement comprising: a torso and shoulder section; a hip and thigh section; a left and a right sleeve section pockets and straps to secure and position molded protective padding; and a closure device to maximize comfort, fit, and appearance of the unitard and uniform worn over it.

2. The invention of claim 1 wherein said unitard is manufactured from a natural material.

3. The invention of claim 1 wherein said unitard is manufactured from a synthetic material.

4. The invention of claim 1 wherein said unitard is manufactured from a blend of materials.

5. The invention of claim 1 wherein said closure device is in the front of said unitard.

6. The invention of claim 1 wherein said closure device is not in the front of said unitard.

7. A unitard with sleeves connected to a upper torso and shoulder section, said sleeves being fashioned from connected panels that serve to position and secure shoulder pads in proper position, and further said sleeves having means to secure the leaves of said shoulder pads to prevent them from being inadvertently pulled through the collar-neck opening of a uniform jersey.

8. A unitard wherein certain protective equipment is included as a part of the garment for light contact competition and practices.

9. The unitard of claim 8 wherein said certain protective equipment comprises modified shoulder pads, knee, thigh, and hip pads.

Description:

RELATION TO PRIOR APPLICATION

This Patent Application claims priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/776,413 filed Feb. 24, 2006 and which Provisional Patent Application is hereby incorporated in its entirety, by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention is generally in the field of athletic equipment. More specifically, it is characterized as an athletic undergarment, and precisely, it is an athletic undergarment designed to help position and secure protective equipment so as to maximize the protective function of the equipment and simultaneously minimize restrictions on the movement or flexibility of the athlete. It is designed to enhance the both the safety and comfort of the athlete and to improve the overall appearance of the athlete in full uniform.

BACKGROUND

Contact sports have become increasingly popular in most age/ability-level groups from young, grammar school students to professional athletic teams. The increased participation has led to increased awareness of the need for and related demand for improved protective equipment that does not restrict the movement or flexibility of the athlete.

Protective athletic equipment is commonly adapted to a specific sport, and in many instances to a specific position on a team. Consider for example, the need for protection of the legs and torso; the most intense contact sports, hence the sports for which the greatest protection exists include football, hockey, and rugby. The need for protection of a participant in football provides an instructive overview of the scope of function of desired, if not required protective equipment for the legs and torso. The full uniform includes protection from contact with the knees (but not twisting), thighs, kidneys, hips and tail bone (or coccxy), ribs and upper chest, shoulders, upper arms and upper portion of the back. Obviously, head, face, and mouth protection are also included as essential, but are beyond the scope of the present invention.

Commonly, knee protection (knee pads) and thigh protection (thigh pads) are provided by separate elements of padding that either fit into pockets in uniform pants or that are worn as slip-on padding. In the case of the pocket inserts, commonly the padding rotates away from the optimum position on the leg as the athlete moves, thereby reducing protection, or the padding is secured by tape over the uniform pants that may restrict the athlete. The “slip-on” pads may move; an additional criticism is that if tight enough to be held in place, movement is too restricted.

The kidney, hip, and tail-bone protection may be provided by separate strap-on/slip-on pads, but commonly they are positioned in uniform pants. Rib protection is not common to all positions and frequently is provided by a separate “jacket” that is bulky and restricts movement excessively in many instances.

Other that the widely recognized football helmet, shoulder pads are the most widely recognized protective equipment used. Shoulder pads provide varying levels of protection to the shoulders, chest, upper arms, and upper back.

Football shoulder pads have evolved into complex, heavy units comprising different parts, depending on the anticipated demands of the position the athlete plays. The foundation comprises a “vest-like” element that opens in the front and back and extends down the chest and over the shoulders and down the back somewhat to the shoulder blades. It is fitted for chest size and held down and in position by straps that pass under the arms from the front to the back. This element is made from shock absorbing, stiff padding encased in a hard shell. Additional protection of the top surface of the shoulders and upper arms is provided by one or more pairs of formed, padded leaves or shells hinged to the foundation element at the neck opening and extending outward over and around the shoulder and upper arm. For the most violent contact, the shoulder pad may have two or more pairs of heavy leaves. Such pads are markedly more restrictive than lighter pads designed for positions in which flexibility is critical, and intense, violent contact on the tops of the shoulders is less common, such as kickers or the a quarter back.

As note, to some degree restricted movement is a problem for all protective equipment, and the weight and positioning of the padding restrict movement. Although the shoulder pads rarely are moved significantly in terms of effects on protective function, frequently as a result of contact, one or more of the protective leaves or shells is pulled through the collar of the jersey. Without the jersey to hold it down in its protective position, the leaf or shell “flops” on its hinge, reducing protection to the athlete, potentially restricting movement, distracting the athlete and others, and even to some extent representing a potential danger to other athletes contacting the unprotected shell. Many football players have cited the need for a means to reduce or eliminate the unintended exposure of the shoulder pad leaves or shells, for safety, effectiveness, and for appearance.

Prior art reveals emphasis on special aspects of protective clothing for certain contact sports as well as for non-athletic purposes, particularly helmets that not only protect the head, but that also minimize trauma to the neck. U.S. Pat. No. 5,353,437 issued Oct. 11, 1994 to M. R. Field and G. D. Caldwell discloses and claims a combination upper body padded, protective element and with a outer, protective helmet fixed to it, and an inner helmet that rotates with movement of the head. The protective clothing can be worn by athletes in contact sports and is also suggested for riot control and other situations requiring protection of the head and upper body. U.S. Pat. No. 5,295,271 issued Mar. 22, 1994 to James Butterfield and George Spector discloses and claims a helmet shoulder rest such that a protective helmet rests on the shoulders of the wearer, without engaging the head, neck, or face, thereby affording protection to them when the helmet is engaged in violent contact. U.S. Pat. No. 5,123,408 issued Jun. 23, 1992 to Gaines discloses and claims a sports helmet that affords special protection to the cervical spine.

Relatively few garments that feature torso and leg protection have been disclosed. Examples suggest that restriction of movement resulting from padding and other protective device placement and distribution would be a serious problem or otherwise have limited, specific applicability. U.S. Pat. No. 6,141,800 issued Nov. 7, 2000 to Paul Regan discloses and claims a hockey jersey with means in each sleeve to attach wrist guards. U.S. Pat. No. 6,044,498 issued Apr. 4, 2000 to E. F. Schumann, et al. discloses and claims a hockey jersey made from a special cut/slash resistant material.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,453,271 issued Jun. 12, 1984, to Donzis claims a fully protective garment comprising an inner layer and an outer layer with variable pressure pads and air cushions formed and located between the layers. U.S. Pat. No. 4,084,264 issued Apr. 18, 1978 to S. T. Marion discloses and claims a special jacket to protect youth from being injured by pitched balls during batting practice.

Accordingly, there remains room in the art for an athletic unitard capable of securing in position on the torso of an athlete participating in a body contact sport equipment designed to protect the shoulders, chest, upper back, hips, kidneys, thighs, knees, and coccxy without restricting movement and of improving the overall fit and appearance of the outer athletic uniform.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an purpose or goal of the invention to enhance the protective function of certain athletic equipment by securing such equipment in proper position by means of an athletic unitard worn under the uniform of an athlete and to minimize restriction of movement resulting from wearing the protective equipment. It is a further purpose or goal of the invention to limit the displacement or movement of the protective padding during competition to maximize the protective function of the equipment. It is a still further purpose and goal of the invention to improve the fit of uniform pants and jerseys thereby improving overall appearance, minimizing loose material that can be grasped by an opponent, and reducing the general discomfort and distraction of ill-fitting uniforms, and in one best mode the unitard includes padding incorporated into the garment, such as modified shoulder pars, knee, hip, and thigh pads.

These and other purposes and goals can be achieved by an athletic unitard made of a torso and a shoulder section to which are attached a hip and thigh section, and left and right arm sections attached to the shoulder area of the torso and shoulder section and being formed from at lest two panels and having means to secure protective shoulder pads in position and to prevent the protective leaves or shells of the shoulder pads from being pulled from under the jersey through the collar opening, in addition wherein the torso region is adapted to position and secure hip, kidney, knee, thigh, and coccxy padding, and the upper torso section is adapted to providing rib and in conjunction with the thigh section which is adapted to positioning thigh pads, finally the unitard torso and shoulder section has a front opening with a close fitting collar and full length closing device, such as a zipper, and the entire garment is fit to maximize a smooth fit of the uniform under which it is worn. As one skilled in the art recognizes, the closure could be in either side or the back of the unitard without altering the scope or intent of the invention, and such locations are anticipated by the invention.

These and other benefits of the invention will be made more clear and obvious by reference to the figures and the following detailed descriptions and discussion as well as to the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is a front view of the unitard indicating the major sections thereof, their relationship, and positioning of protective equipment.

FIG. 1B is a rear view of the unitard indicating the major sections thereof, their relationship, and positioning of protective equipment.

EXAMPLES WITH DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS OF THE DRAWINGS

Example 1

FIG. 1A provides a front view of the unitard 101 and FIG. 1B provides a rear view 103 of the same unitard. As illustrated, the unitard is adapted to secure and position protective equipment commonly used in football. Note certain elements of the unitard are seen in both the front 101 and rear 103 views, respectively, of the unitard. In the following discussion and description of the construction of the unitard, it is understood that reference to “connection” of parts or pieces assumes a sewn seam, and a seam assumes a sewn connection connecting pieces of material; however, the assumption of a sewn seam does not exclude other means of connection materials, including adhesives and thermal processes used individually or in combination as one skilled in the art understands.

The unitard comprises two major sections, the torso and shoulder section 105 and the hip, and thigh section 107. The torso and shoulder section 105 comprises three major parts the lower torso part 109, the upper torso part 111, and the left sleeve 113A and right sleeve 113B parts. A belt-like, first seam piece 115 connects the hip and thigh section 107 to the torso and shoulder section 105, and the lower torso part 109 is joined to the upper torso part 111 by a second seam piece 129.

An opening 117 extends along a seam in the front 190 of the unitard from the collar 119 to the crotch 121. The opening is closed by a zipper or comparable slide device securing the full length of the opening 117. The opening 117 is reenforced with a strap 123 from the belt-like, first seam piece 115 to its end 170. To ensure a smooth well fitted exterior appearance, the opening and associated closure device (not illustrated) are covered by closure cover piece (not illustrated).

The crotch reenforcement piece 125 is connected to the end of the reenforcement strap 123 and extends to the back 191 of the unitard 103 where it is connected to the base of the rear seam reenforcement piece 127.

The continuity of the upper torso part 111 lower torso part 109, connecting seam piece 129, and center seam 131 connecting the left rear half 113A and right rear half 113B of the unitard and torso and shoulder section 105 are shown in the rear view 103 of the back 191 of the unitard (FIG. 1B).

Both the left sleeve 159A and right sleeve 159B comprise an inseam strap 133A and 133B, respectively. The inseam straps 133A and 133B extend the length of each respective sleeve on either side of the torso and shoulder section 105, connecting the front 135 and rear 137 torso and shoulder sections and providing the base of each left sleeve 159A and right sleeve 159B.

The left 159A and right 159B sleeves are formed by shaped panels 139. The size and shape of each panel is a direct function of its relative position on the sleeve in terms of distance from the collar 119 outward to the forearm and of the size and shape of the type of shoulder pad to be positioned and secured, and it includes the size of the shoulders and biceps of the athlete. The individual panels are shaped to taper into the under-arm area, so that the width necessary to cover the dimension of the surface of the shoulder pads is not carried as loose material along the length of the lower arm, thereby serving to position and secure the protective equipment without restricting motion by excessive material. In addition a first securing strap 180A is positioned in upper portion of the first panel of the left sleeve 159A and a second securing strap 180B is similarly positioned in the right first panel of the right sleeve 159B. The first and second securing straps 180A and 180B, respectively provide the means to secure in place the leafs or shells of the shoulder pads.

The first panel of each sleeve is connected to the torso and shoulder section 105 along one margin, a second panel is connected along the second margin of the first panel, and a third panel is similarly connected to the second panel, with the number of panels ultimately determined by the desired length of the sleeve and the need to fit over relatively large pads, such as those used by interior linemen versus the significantly lighter pads frequently worn by for example a quarterback or kicker. The distil end of the sleeve terminates in a cuff 199A and 199B fitted in size to the arm of the athlete. In one best mode, the sleeves extend to the lower arm and are adapted to position and secure molded, shaped elbow pads.

Pockets are formed in the interior of the unitard to hold specific protective padding. Such pockets are outlined by broken lines on the surface of the unitard as depicted in FIG. 1A and FIG. 1B.

Pockets 141 to position and secure molded thigh pads are positioned in the upper surface of the front of the leg portion 145 of the unitard. The pockets are shaped to accommodate a thigh pad element 145 and to hold said element without excessive tension on the leg in position to provide optimum protection from injury to the thigh as a result of violent contact. Similarly, hip padding is positioned in pockets 147 to protect the hip area. Pockets 149 to position and secure molded kidney pads are positioned around the waist of the unitard and span part of the front and rear of the unitard. And, a pocket for a molded pad to protect the tail bone (coccxy) is formed is formed on the inside of rear seam reenforcement piece 127.

Pockets to secure and position protective padding for the ribs and chest 154 are formed in the upper torso part and may extend into the lower torso part of the front of the torso and shoulder section 105.

The length of the thigh part of the unitard can be extended to accommodate means top secure knee padding that minimizes restrictions on speed and maintains protection from impact injuries to the knees.

The unitard may be fashioned from any of a wide variety of natural, synthetic, or combined materials, so long as the material has at least the following features: adapted to forming strong, smooth seams; moderately stretchable in two directions, but size and shape are not distorted by stretching; relatively high wickability to move perspiration away from the body, and light weight. Material should be flexible so as to minimize restrictions of movement and secure protective padding in specific locations.

The feature of positioning and securing by the unitard as opposed to present art stems from the fact that the unitard is a single garment with vertical movement restricted by the shoulders and crotch. Shaping of the sleeves to accommodate the bulk of shoulder pads and size of the biceps of the athlete as well as the interior straps of the shoulder area minimize movement of and restriction of these pads, and the incorporation of rib pads into the single garment reduces restrictions of such padding worn as an additional element of protection. All inserted padding is molded for the specific function or area to be protected and the actual size/bulk of the padding tailored to minimize binding and restrictions on movement.

Example 2

In one best mode, the protective equipment is limited to shoulder pads and thigh pads both of which are inserted into pockets as described in general in Example 1. In this configuration, the unitard provides necessary protection for practices with minimal contact. This configuration is also adaptable for use as a protective garment for rugby and/or hockey players.

Example 3

In yet another best mode, the leg portion 145 of the unitard is extended to include a pocket in which knee pads can be positioned and secured.

Although preferred embodiments of the invention have been presented for specific sports and types of padding and materials, it is to be understood that these are presented as examples, not as limitations in the interpretation of the invention as expressed in the following claims.