Title:
Protective batting helmet with reinforced bill
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A protective batting helmet with a reinforced bill includes a rigid shell for protecting the head of a wearer, a reinforced bill extending from the rigid shell, and a lower face guard extending across the lower portion of the rigid shell. The non-deflectable, reinforced bill and lower face guard provide protection to a wearer's face without impeding their vision.



Inventors:
Brown, Robin J. (Labadie, MO, US)
Lorenz, Michael A. (Gahanna, OH, US)
Vititoe, Kevin J. (Columbus, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/413912
Publication Date:
11/01/2007
Filing Date:
04/28/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A42B3/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
SUTTON, ANDREW W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STINSON LLP (KANSAS CITY, MO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed and desired to be secured by Letters Patent is as follows:

1. A protective batting helmet comprising: a rigid shell having crown, front, back, left and right portions shaped to protect the respective crown, front, back, left and right portions of a wearer's head, said shell defining a bottom opening and an internal cavity for receiving said wearer's head; a reinforced bill extending outwardly from said front of said shell in an area corresponding to said wearer's forehead, said bill having sufficient strength and stiffness to prevent the bill from deflecting under the force of a ball; and a face guard affixed to said shell such that an uppermost portion of said face guard and a bottom edge of said bill define an unobstructed viewing area.

2. The batting helmet of claim 1, wherein said reinforced bill comprises a reinforcing member configured to conform to a contour of said bill.

3. The batting helmet of claim 2, wherein said bill comprises a recessed area configured to receive said reinforcing member.

4. The batting helmet of claim 2, wherein said reinforcing member comprises a non-deflectable material.

5. The batting helmet of claim 4, wherein said reinforcing component comprises metal.

6. The batting helmet of claim 5, wherein said reinforcing component comprises aluminum alloy.

7. The batting helmet of claim 2, wherein said reinforcing member comprises an upper component affixed to said upper surface of said bill and a lower component affixed to said lower surface of said bill.

8. The batting helmet of claim 7, wherein said bill comprises recesses in said upper and lower surfaces configured to receive said upper and lower components, respectively.

9. The batting helmet of claim 1, further comprising: a suspension system attached within said inner cavity, said suspension system comprising a strap extending around a rear portion of said inner cavity in the area of a back portion of said wearer's head.

10. The batting helmet of claim 9, wherein said suspension system comprises an adjustment mechanism operable to tighten said strap against a wearer's head.

11. The batting helmet of claim 10, wherein said adjustment mechanism comprises a knob extending through said back portion of said rigid shell.

12. The batting helmet of claim 1, wherein a distance between said face guard and said bill is less than 2.5 inches.

13. The batting helmet of claim 12, wherein a distance between said face guard and said bill is approximately 1.5 inches.

14. A protective batting helmet comprising: a shell configured to protect the head of a wearer; a bill extending outwardly from said shell; and a reinforcing member attached to said bill to prevent deflection of the bill.

15. The batting helmet of claim 14, wherein said reinforcing member is configured to conform to a contour of said bill.

16. The batting helmet of claim 15, wherein said bill comprises a recessed area configured to receive said reinforcing component.

17. The batting helmet of claim 16, wherein said reinforcing member comprises a non-deflectable material.

18. The batting helmet of claim 14, wherein said reinforcing member comprises an upper component affixed to said upper surface of said bill and a lower component affixed to said lower surface of said bill.

19. The batting helmet of claim 18, wherein said bill comprises recesses in said upper and lower surfaces configured to receive said upper and lower components, respectively.

20. A protective batting helmet comprising: a shell configured to protect the head of a wearer; and a reinforced bill extending outwardly from said shell, said bill having an impact strength that is greater than an impact strength of said rigid shell.

21. The helmet of claim 20, further comprising a face guard affixed to said shell.

22. The helmet of claim 20, further comprising: means for securing said shell to the head of a wearer.

23. The helmet of claim 20, further comprising: means for reinforcing said bill.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

None.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to protective sports equipment, and more particularly to protective helmets used in baseball and softball. Specifically, the present invention relates to protective batting helmets.

2. Description of Related Art

Protective helmets are commonly used in various sports to provide protection to a player's head and face. In baseball, for example, players commonly wear batting helmets to provide protection against wild pitches or foul balls.

In order to provide protection to the face and head of the wearer, batting helmets often include a hard shell portion to cover the head of the wearer, with a face guard affixed to the hard shell portion to protect the face of the wearer. Typically, the face guard is configured as a wire cage, and is immovably affixed to the front and sides of the helmet. Rigid bars of the cage extend generally horizontally across the front of the helmet to protect the forehead, mouth, and nose of the wearer, with generally vertical bars extending upwardly on either side of the wearer's eyes to protect the eyes and forehead of the wearer. The vertical bars of conventional face cages typically attach to an upper cross bar that extends across the front of the helmet in the area of a wearer's forehead. In such a configuration, the vertical bars may extend into the wearer's field of vision. The face cage thus provides a rigid barrier to stray balls, with the spacing between bars on the wire face cage such that stray balls may not enter the cage and strike the player's head or face.

While conventional face cage configurations provide adequate protection to the wearer, the configuration can impede the wearer's vision. Compared to a helmet without a face cage, the view through a face cage is obstructed with the horizontal and vertical protective bars being an impediment to a wearer's upward, downward, and peripheral vision. In any direction through the face cage, the line-of-sight of the wearer includes some sort of obstruction.

Some protective face cage designs have reduced the obstruction to the wearer's vision by moving the vertical cross bars as far as practical to the sides of the helmet. However, even when looking straight-ahead through the defined viewing area of a face cage having that configuration, the wearer may still detect the vertical cross bars in their direct or peripheral vision. Rather than have their vision impaired, many players simply forgo the use of a face cage.

Thus, it can be seen that there remains a need in the art for a protective batting helmet having a protective face cage that provides protection to a wearer's head and face without impeding their vision.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a protective batting helmet having a reinforced bill. The non-deflectable, reinforced bill protects the forehead and upper face area of the wearer. A lower face guard extends across the lower portion of the helmet to protect the mouth, chin, and lower face area of the wearer. No vertical bars extend or connect between the lower face guard and the reinforced bill, thus there is no obstruction or impediment to a wearer's view through the viewing area between the bill and the face guard. Used in combination, the helmet and lower face guard provides complete protection to the head and face of the wearer, without impeding the wearer's field of vision.

The protruding bill of the helmet includes reinforcing members attached to the top and bottom surfaces of the bill. The reinforcing members are made of a non-deflectable material and act to provide reinforcement to the bill, preventing the bill from bending or deflecting when struck by a stray ball. The lower face guard includes horizontal cross members extending generally horizontally across the lower front portion of the helmet, in the area of the wearer's mouth and nose. The face guard is likewise made from a non-deflectable, rigid material. The space defined between the reinforced bill of the helmet and the uppermost portion of the face guard provides an unobstructed viewing area through which a wearer has an unimpeded view.

In use in conjunction with the lower face guard, the reinforced bill of the helmet acts as an “upper crossbar” to protect the forehead and eyes of the wearer. However, unlike conventional face guard configurations, there are no vertical members extending between the lower face guard and the reinforced bill. Thus, there are no impediments in the wearer's line-of sight or peripheral vision.

In an exemplary embodiment, the helmet comprises a rigid shell for protecting the head of the wearer, with a bill extending outwardly from the shell in the area of a wearer's forehead. Reinforcing members are attached to the upper and lower surfaces of the bill to strengthen the bill such that it is not deflectable under impact from a stray ball. A lower face guard, formed as a wire cage having a plurality of horizontal members, extends across the front opening of the rigid shell to protect the chin, mouth, and nose of the wearer. The lower face guard is attached to the rigid shell at opposite sides of the shell, in the area of the wearer's ears. An unobstructed viewing area is thus defined between the reinforced bill of the rigid shell and the uppermost horizontal member of the lower face guard. With no vertical members extending between the lower face guard and the reinforced bill, the wearer's line of sight through the viewing area is completely unimpeded view.

In another aspect of the invention, a suspension and adjustment mechanism affixed within the inner cavity of the rigid shell comprises a strap extending circumferentially around the inner cavity, with an adjustment knob extending though the back portion of the rigid shell to the strap. Turning the knob tightens the strap against the wearer's head, allowing the helmet to fit more securely to the head of a wearer.

Additional aspects of the invention, together with the advantages and novel features appurtenant thereto, will be set forth in part in the description that follows, and in part will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following, or may be learned from the practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and attained by means of the instrumentalities and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will be described in greater detail in the following detailed description of the invention with reference to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, in which:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a protective batting helmet with a reinforced bill in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the helmet of FIG. 1, showing separate reinforcing elements attached to the bill.

FIG. 3 is a left-side elevational view of the helmet of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a rear elevational view of the helmet of FIG. 1, showing an adjustment knob at the rear of the helmet.

FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of the helmet of FIG. 1, with the face guard removed to show an interior suspension and adjustment mechanism.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

A protective batting helmet having a reinforced bill in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention is depicted in FIGS. 1 through 5. While the invention will be described in detail hereinbelow with reference to this exemplary embodiment, it should be understood that the invention is not limited to the specific configuration shown in these embodiments. Rather, one skilled in the art will appreciate that a variety of configurations may be implemented in accordance with the present invention.

Looking first to FIG. 1, a protective batting helmet with a reinforced bill in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention is depicted generally by the numeral 10. Batting helmet 10 includes a rigid shell 12 having a protruding bill 14, with an attached lower face guard 16. Reinforcing members 18a, 18b attached to the upper and lower surfaces 20a, 20b, respectively, of bill 14 strengthen the bill such that that it cannot deflect under impact from stray balls and the like. An unobstructed viewing area 22 is defined between reinforced bill 14 and the uppermost portion of lower face guard 16.

Rigid Shell

Looking to FIGS. 1-3, rigid shell 12 includes a crown 26, a back 28, a front 30, a left side 32, and a right side 34, defining a front opening 36 corresponding to the area of the wearer's face, and defining a bottom opening 38 for placing the shell over a wearer's head. The crown, front, back, and sides further define an inner cavity 40 that generally conforms to the shape of a wearer's head. Left and right ear covers 42a, 42b extend downwardly from the left and right sides 32, 34, respectively, of rigid shell 12 to cover the wearer's left and right ears, respectively. Left and right ear openings 44a, 44b through left and right ear covers 42a, 42b, respectively, provide ventilation to the wearer and allow the wearer to hear while wearing the batting helmet. Bill 14 extends outwardly from front portion 30 of rigid shell 12 in the area generally corresponding to a wearer's forehead. Bill 14 is oriented to extend slightly upwardly from horizontal in normal wearing position, with the upper surface 20a of bill 14 shaped slightly convex to divert precipitation to the sides of the helmet. Bill 14 extends outwardly from front portion 30 to protect a wearer's eyes from sunlight and precipitation, without unduly limiting the wearer's upward view.

Preferably, rigid shell 12 is constructed from any rigid, impact resistant material. Most preferably, rigid shell 12 is constructed of a lightweight, rigid plastic material such as Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) or polycarbonate. Rigid shell 12 is preferably formed as a unitary piece, including bill 14, using known processes such as molding or casting. Rigid shell 12 may be custom manufactured to accommodate head sizes from extra small (6⅜) to extra large (7½), or may be manufactured to an intermediate or one-size-fits-all configuration with various sizes of removable pads attached to the rigid shell 12 along the inner cavity to fit the batting helmet to a particular wearer. Any configuration of rigid shell 12 may include soft pads or padding at locations along inner cavity 40 to provide a snug, comfortable fit to the wearer's head as is known in the art.

Reinforcing Members

As best seen in FIG. 2, reinforcing members 18a, 18b attach to the upper and lower surfaces 20a, 20b, respectively of bill 14. Arc-shaped reinforcing members 18a, 18b are configured to conform to the contour of the upper and lower surfaces, respectively. Recessed areas 48a, 48b formed in the upper and lower surfaces of bill 14 are configured to receive the respective reinforcing member 18a, 18b such that the reinforcing members lie substantially flush with the remaining surfaces of the bill. Preferably, the recessed areas are formed in the bill of the helmet using an insert molding process, although any method known in the art may be used. Apertures 50 through reinforcing members 18a, 18b allow the reinforcing members to be attached to bill 14 using fasteners 52. Any fastener known in the art is suitable for this purpose, and rivets are particularly suited for this purpose.

The reinforced bill needs to have sufficient strength and stiffness to prevent the bill from deflecting, bending or breaking under the force of a ball. Reinforcing members 18a, 18b are preferably made from a non-deflectable material having sufficient stiffness to provide the necessary strength to the bill, such as metal. Most preferably, they are made from an aluminum alloy, such as 7000 series aluminum allow like ASTM alloy 70-75. Fasteners 52a, 52b are preferably rivets or T-nut fasteners, although other fasteners or adhesives known in the art may be used to affix the reinforcing members to the bill. With reinforcing members 18a, 18b affixed to bill 14, the bill is prevented from deflecting under the force of a stray ball. Unlike conventional, non-reinforced bills, which deflect or even break-away under impact, the reinforced bill of the present invention withstands the impact of a stray ball without breaking or deflecting. Thus, the reinforced bill of the present invention protects the upper face and forehead of the wearer.

As shown in FIGS. 1-3, reinforcing members 18a, 18b are preferably thin, contoured strips configured to fit flush within the recessed areas 48a, 48b on bill 14. Most preferably, they are approximately 1/16 inches thick. Reinforcing members 18a, 18b are one means for reinforcing bill 14. Variations and different configurations of reinforcing members and means for reinforcing bill 14 will be apparent to those skilled in the art. For example, the reinforcing members may be thicker strips that do not lie flush with the helmet, or may be other shapes, sizes, or configurations attached at various points along or around the bill. Numerous configurations of reinforcing members having similar tensile strength and stiffness properties to those of the reinforcing members in the exemplary embodiment may be employed without deviating from the present invention.

While the exemplary embodiment shown depicts two reinforcing members as separate components attached to the upper and lower surfaces of bill 14, variations of this configuration will be apparent to one skilled in the art. For example, a single reinforcing member attached to either the upper or lower surface of bill 14 may be used to provide reinforcement to the bill. Or, a single reinforcing member configured to fit over the front edge of bill 14 may be used. Alternatively, a single reinforcing member may be integrally formed or molded within the bill, or the reinforcing fibers such as fiberglass or composite fibers may be incorporated within the bill to provide the sufficient strength. Similarly, while the reinforcing members are shown as being located towards the front of the bill, members that wrap around towards the rear of bill 14, or that extend along the bill to the front portion 30 of rigid shell 12 may also be employed. Likewise, the entire bill may be constructed from a non-deflectable material to act as a unitary reinforcing member. Other variations of reinforcing the bill using non-deflectable material will be apparent to those skilled in the art, and are anticipated by, and within the scope of, the present invention.

Lower Face Guard

Looking still to FIGS. 1-3, lower face guard 16 is a wire cage extending across the lower front opening 36 of rigid shell 12. Lower face guard 16 includes first, second, and third horizontal bars 54, 56, 58, extending generally horizontally in an outward arc from the left side of rigid shell 12, across front opening 36, to the right side of rigid shell 12. First horizontal bar 54 extends across front opening 36 in the area corresponding generally to the lower nose of the wearer. Second and third horizontal bars 56, 58 extend across front opening 36 in the area corresponding generally to the mouth and chin of the wearer.

Arched front bars 60, 62, 64 extend upwardly from third horizontal bar 58, and are centered across front opening 36 in the area of the wearer's chin, mouth, and nose. First front bar 60 extends across farthest, joining at opposite ends to third horizontal bar 58 just forward of left and right ear covers 42a, 42b. The uppermost portion 61 of first front bar 60 forms the highest portion of face guard 16, extending above first horizontal bar 54 in the area of the wearer's nose. Second front bar 62 extends inboard of first front bar 60, joining at opposite ends to third horizontal bar 58 and extending upward at its center to join the center portion of first front bar 60. Third front bar 64 joins at opposite ends to third horizontal bar 58, protruding slightly upward from third horizontal bar 58 in the area of the wearer's chin and mouth.

Left and right rear vertical struts 66a, 66b, located at the forward portion of left and right ear covers 42a, 42b respectively, join the ends of first, second, and third horizontal bars 54, 56, 58 at opposite sides of rigid shell 12. Fasteners 68a, 68b securely attach face guard 16 to rigid shell 12 at opposite sides of the helmet. Thus, horizontal bars 54, 56, 58, front bars 60, 62, 64, and vertical struts 66a, 66b form a unitary cage extending in an arc shape across front opening 36 of rigid shell 12 to form a barrier to protect a wearer's lower face from stray balls.

Horizontal bars 54, 56, 58, front bars 60, 62, 64, and vertical struts 68a, 68b of face guard 16 are preferably constructed from a rigid tubular metal such as steel, aluminum, or titanium, having a diameter of approximately 3/16 inches. Most preferably, face guard 16 is constructed from solid tubular steel having a diameter of 4.8 millimeters. The horizontal bars, front bars, and vertical struts may be joined or affixed to each other using welding, soldering, gluing, or any other manner of adhesion know in the art. Other materials and configurations for face guard 16 will be apparent to those skilled in the art, and are within the scope of the present invention. For example, hollow tubular metal may be used to construct face guard 16, or composite or polymeric materials may be used. In addition, the horizontal bars, front bars, and vertical struts of face guard 16 may be coated with a plastic or rubber coating to protect the metal members from the elements, and to improve the appearance of the face guard.

With face guard 16 attached to rigid shell 12 as described, reinforced bill 14 and face guard 16 provide combined protection to the entire face of the wearer. The uppermost portion 61 of front bar 60 and the lower surface 20b of bill 14 define an unobstructed viewing area 22 in the area of the wearer's eyes, with the lower surface 20b bounding the upper side of unobstructed viewing area 22 and the uppermost portion 61 of front bar 60 bounding the lower side. The maximum vertical spacing between uppermost portion 61 of front bar 60 and lower surface 20b of bill 14 is preferably less than the diameter of a regulation softball, or approximately 3.5 inches, or a regulation baseball, or approximately 2.5 inches. Most preferably, the maximum vertical spacing between uppermost portion 61 of front bar 60 and lower surface 20b of bill 14 is approximately 1.5 inches to provide protection from baseballs while still providing a large unobstructed viewing area 22. Likewise, the maximum vertical spacing between first horizontal bar 54 and the junction of bill 14 with rigid shell 12 is preferably less than the diameter of a regulation softball, or approximately 3.5 inches, or a regulation baseball, or approximately 2.5 inches. Most preferably, the maximum vertical spacing between first horizontal bar 54 and the junction of bill 14 with rigid shell 12 is approximately 1.5 inches. Other spacing configurations appropriate for use with other sports, such as softball, will be apparent to those skilled in the art and are contemplated by the present invention.

In conjunction, reinforced bill 14 and face guard 16 provide protection to the face of a batter in compliance with the performance requirements set forth in section 5.3 of the National Operation Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) document (ND)024-03m03, revised April 2003. The rigid, non-deflectable, reinforced bill 14 acts as an “upper bar” to protect the forehead and upper face of the wearer, while face guard 16 provides protection to the lower portion of the wearer's face. In combination, the reinforced bill and face guard provide protection for the wearer' entire face in compliance with the NOCSAE standard.

As described herein, variations to the configurations shown in the exemplary embodiment may be employed without deviating from the present invention so long as the helmet and face guard comply with the stated NOCSAE standard.

Suspension and Adjustment Mechanism

Turning now to FIGS. 4 and 5, a suspension and adjustment mechanism 70 attached to rigid shell 12 within inner cavity 40 allows the helmet to be fitted more securely to the head of a wearer. Suspension and adjustment mechanism 70 comprises a support strap 72 extending around the sides and rear portion of rigid shell 12 in inner cavity 40. An adjustment strap 74 attached to the inner sides of rigid shell 12 extends into an adjustment mechanism 76, located on the inner side of the back portion 28 of rigid shell 12. An adjustment knob 78 located on the outer rear of rigid shell 12 extends through back portion 28 and into adjustment mechanism 76. Turning knob 78 operates a ratchet mechanism within adjustment mechanism 76 to tighten or loosen adjustment strap 74 against the back of a wearer's head, adjusting the fit of the helmet against the wearer's head. Thus, when the helmet is worn, suspension and adjustment mechanism 70 is used to securely affix the helmet to the head of the wearer. Suspension and adjustment mechanism 70 is one means for more securely fitting the helmet to the head of a wearer, and may be any type of mechanism known in the art, such as those used with hardhats and the like. Other known mechanisms and means for securing hats or helmets may be also be used with deviating from the present invention.

Use

In use, reinforcing members 18a, 18b are secured to bill 14 using fasteners 52a, 52b to provide a rigid, non-deflectable bill. Lower face guard 16 is attached at opposite sides of rigid shell 12 using fasteners 68a, 68b. Thus attached, rigid shell 12, reinforced bill 14, and lower face guard 16 form a rigid, unitary protective batting helmet, providing protection to the wearer in compliance with the above-referenced NOCSAE standard. The unobstructed viewing area 22 defined between reinforced bill 14 and lower face guard 16 allows a wearer an unimpeded view through the batting helmet, while still providing protection. Adjustment mechanism 70 further allows the protective batting helmet to be more securely fitted to the head of the wearer, preventing the helmet from shifting or falling off under movement.

In an alternative use, the protective batting helmet may be used without lower face guard 16, as shown in FIG. 5. In this configuration, reinforced bill 14 provides a rigid, non-deflectable barrier to stray balls in the area of the wearer's forehead and eyes. Unlike conventional batting helmets having bills that will deflect or break on impact from a stray ball, the reinforced bill of the batting helmet of the present invention will withstand a strike from a stray ball, protecting the eyes and forehead area of the wearer.

As can be seen, the invention described herein provides a protective batting helmet and face guard that provides complete protection to the face and head of a wearer, while simultaneously providing a completely unobstructed viewing area. Of course, other embodiments or configurations will be apparent to those skilled in the art, and are contemplated by and within the scope of the present invention.

The term “substantially” or “approximately” as used herein may be applied to modify any quantitative representation that could permissibly vary without resulting in a change in the basic function to which it is related. For example, the members of the lower face guard are described as being most preferably approximately 4.8 millimeters in diameter, but may permissibly vary from that diameter if the variance does not materially alter the capability of the invention.

While the present invention has been described and illustrated hereinabove with reference to various exemplary embodiments, it should be understood that various modifications could be made to these embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention. Therefore, the invention is not to be limited to the exemplary embodiments described and illustrated hereinabove, except insofar as such limitations are included in the following claims.





 
Previous Patent: Belt with motion control

Next Patent: Ventilated helmet system