Title:
Batting helmet with adjustable face guard
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A batting helmet with an adjustable face guard includes a rigid shell for protecting the head of a wearer, with an adjustable face guard movably attached to the shell. An adjustment mechanism regulates the movement of the face guard between upper and lower limits to vary a wearer's line-of-sight through the face guard. An associated method of use is also provided



Inventors:
Brown, Robin J. (Labadie, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/414671
Publication Date:
11/01/2007
Filing Date:
04/28/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A42B1/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WORRELL JR, LARRY D
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 batting helmet having an adjustable line-of-sight, comprising: a. 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 inner cavity for receiving said wearer's head; and b. a face guard having an unobstructed viewing area movably affixed to said shell, such that moving said face guard relative to said shell varies a wearer's line-of-sight through said unobstructed viewing area.

2. The protective helmet of claim 1, further comprising: a. an adjustment mechanism coupled between said rigid shell and said face guard such that said adjustment mechanism regulates movement of said face guard relative to said shell.

3. The protective helmet of claim 2, wherein said adjustment mechanism is affixed to said shell.

4. The protective helmet of claim 2, wherein said adjustment mechanism comprises a slot having first and second ends.

5. The protective helmet of claim 4, further comprising a pin attached to said face guard and received within said slot such that said pin contacts said first and second ends of said slot to limit the travel of said face guard relative to said shell.

6. The protective helmet of claim 1, wherein said face guard comprises a plurality of horizontal members.

7. The protective helmet of claim 1, wherein said face guard comprises a first horizontal member and a second horizontal member, such that a wearer's view between said first and second members defines said unobstructed viewing area.

8. The protective helmet of claim 7, wherein a distance between said first member and said second member is less than approximately 2.5 inches.

9. The protective helmet of claim 7 wherein a distance between said first member and said second member is less than approximately 3.5 inches.

10. A protective helmet having an adjustable line-of-sight, comprising: a. a rigid shell configured to protect a wearer's head, said shell defining a bottom opening and an inner cavity for receiving said wearer's head; b. a bill affixed to said shell, said bill extending outwardly from said shell in an area corresponding to said wearer's forehead; c. a face guard having a viewing area, said face guard pivotally attached to said shell; d. an adjustment mechanism coupled between said bill and said face guard, said adjustment mechanism regulating the movement of said face guard relative to said bill such that pivoting said face guard relative to said bill varies a wearer's line-of-sight through said viewing area.

11. The protective helmet of claim 10, wherein said adjustment mechanism comprises a receptacle on said bill and a pin extending from said face guard into said receptacle, such that moving said face guard relative to said bill moves said pin within said receptacle.

12. The protective helmet of claim 11, wherein said receptacle comprises at least one stop to limit the travel of said pin within said receptacle.

13. The protective helmet of claim 11, further comprising a keeper affixed to said pin to retain said pin within said receptacle.

14. The protective helmet of claim 13, wherein said keeper is adjustably engageable with said receptacle such that said keeper can be adjusted to lock said adjustment mechanism in place to prevent movement of said face guard relative to said bill.

15. A protective helmet having an adjustable line-of-sight, comprising: a. a rigid shell configured to protect a wearer's head; b. a bill affixed to said shell; c. a face guard comprising horizontal members defining a viewing area pivotally attached to said shell; and d. an adjustment mechanism coupled between said bill and said face guard, said adjustment mechanism operable to regulate the movement of said face guard relative to said bill.

16. The protective helmet of claim 15, wherein said adjustment mechanism comprises a slotted bracket affixed to said bill.

17. The protective helmet of claim 16, further comprising a pin affixed to said face guard and extending into said slotted bracket such that pivoting said face guard relative to said helmet moves said pin within said bracket.

18. The protective helmet of claim 17, further comprising a clip affixed to said face guard to retain said pin.

19. The protective helmet of claim 18, wherein said slotted bracket comprises stops for engaging said pin to limit the travel of said face guard with respect to said helmet.

20. A protective helmet having an adjustable line-of-sight, comprising: a. a rigid shell; b. a face guard having a viewing area movably attached to said shell; and c. means for regulating the movement of said face guard relative to said shell.

21. The protective helmet of claim 19, further comprising a bill extending outwardly from said rigid shell.

22. A method for adjusting the line-of-sight of a batting helmet face guard comprising: a. providing a rigid shell for protecting a wearer's head b. pivotally attaching a face guard having a viewing area to said rigid shell; c. moving said face guard with respect to said rigid shell to achieve the desired alignment of said viewing area to a wearer.

23. The method of claim 21, further comprising: a. regulating the movement of said face guard with respect to said rigid shell.

24. The method of claim 22, further comprising: a. locking said face guard to prevent movement of said face guard with respect to said rigid shell.

Description:

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 batting helmets having protective face guards.

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. Offensive players also sometimes wear helmets when running the bases to protect against balls thrown attempting to get them out.

In lower-level leagues, especially those geared to younger players, protective batting helmets must also include a face guard to protect the face of the wearer against stray balls. Typically, the face guard is configured as a wire cage, and is immovably affixed to the front and sides of the helmet. The face guard provides a rigid barrier to stray balls. Spacing between bars on the wire face cage is configured to prevent balls from entering the cage and striking the player, but still allows the player to view outwardly from behind the cage.

While the fixed, one-size-fits-all face cages do provide protection, they also introduce disadvantages to the wearer. Compared to a helmet without a face cage, the view through a face cage is obstructed. The fixed horizontal cross bars and fixed vertical support members of the typical face cage may be an impediment to a wearer's upward, downward, and peripheral vision. In any direction other than straight-ahead, the line-of-sight of the wearer may be obstructed. In addition, fixed face cages are configured to provide an optimal line-of-sight only for a particular sport, and only for an average wearer. For example, a face cage configured to protect against baseballs has a particular spacing between the cross-bar members of the cage to protect against incursion by a baseball, and to allow an average wearer's line-of-sight to be directed towards the pitcher. Such a configuration, however, may not be appropriate for softball, where the pitches are thrown underhand, and approach the batter from a low angle. However, with a typical face cage affixed to a helmet, the line-of sight through the face cage is fixed, and is optimal only for the average wearer wearing the helmet in a specific position on his or her head. A taller or shorter player using this fixed configuration helmet and face guard, or a wearer positioning the helmet in a slightly different position (e.g. tilted forward or rearward), will have a different viewing angle, and may thus have a have a portion of their view obstructed compared to the average-height wearer.

While specific face guards can be manufactured to provide various line-of-sight configurations for specific players, this requires that each player have his own helmet and face guard. Especially for lower-level leagues, this approach requires a burdensome additional expense and requires additional equipment handling capacity. Instead, players typically share a helmet and face guard configured for the average player, even though that configuration may not be optimal for all.

Thus, it can be seen that there remains a need in the art for a protective helmet having a protective face cage that is adaptable to a particular wearer.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a batting helmet having an adjustable face guard, allowing the line-of-sight through the face guard to be adjusted by the wearer. The face guard includes an upper vision cross bar and a lower vision cross bar defining an unobstructed viewing area through the face guard. The face guard is movably attached to the helmet such that the face guard can be moved upward to move the unobstructed viewing area closer to the bill of the helmet, or downward to move the unobstructed viewing area farther away from the bill of the helmet. Thus, the wearer's line-of-sight through the unobstructed viewing area can be varied by moving the face guard with respect to the helmet.

In an exemplary embodiment, the helmet comprises a rigid shell for protecting the head of the wearer, with a face guard formed as a wire cage with horizontal and vertical members covering the front opening of the rigid shell to protect the face of the wearer. An unobstructed viewing area is defined by horizontal members of the face guard positioned above and below the wearer's eyes. The face guard is pivotally attached to the rigid shell at opposite side of the helmet, allowing the face guard to be moved between an upper position in which the wearer's line-of-sight through the unobstructed viewing area is higher, and a lower position in which the wearer's line-of-sight through the unobstructed viewing area is lower. An adjustment mechanism mounted to the underside of the bill of the rigid shell attaches to the face guard to regulate and limit the pivotal movement of the face guard.

Additional aspects of the invention, together with the advantages and novel features appurtenant thereto, will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following, or may be leaned 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 perspective view of a batting helmet with adjustable face guard in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a left-side elevational view of the batting helmet of FIG. 1 with the adjustable face guard in its upper position.

FIG. 3 is a right-side elevational view of the helmet of FIG. 1 with the adjustable face guard in its lower position.

FIG. 4 is an upward-looking perspective view of the helmet of FIG. 1, showing the adjustment mechanism attached to the underside of the bill of the helmet.

FIG. 5 is a close-up view of a portion of the helmet of FIG. 4, showing the adjustment mechanism detail.

FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of the adjustment mechanism of FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is a top plan view of the adjustment mechanism of FIG. 5

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

A protective batting helmet having an adjustable face guard in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention is depicted in FIGS. 1 through 7. 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 FIGS. 1-4, a batting helmet with adjustable face guard 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 with an attached face guard 14. As described herein below, face guard 14 is pivotably mounted to rigid shell 12 to allow the line-of-sight through the face guard to be varied.

Rigid Shell

Rigid shell 12 includes a crown 16, a back 18, a front 20, a left side 22, and a right side 24, defining a front opening 26 corresponding to the area of the wearer's face, and defining a bottom opening 28 for placing the shell over a wearer's head. The crown, front, back, and sides further define an inner cavity 30 which generally conforms to the shape of a wearer's head. Left and right ear covers 32a, 32b extend downwardly from the left and right sides 22, 24 of rigid shell 12 to cover the wearer's left and right ears, respectively. Left and right ear openings 34a, 34b through left and right ear covers 32a, 32b, respectively, provide ventilation to the wearer and allow the wearer to hear while wearing the batting helmet. Ventilation apertures 36a, 36b in the upper part of left and right side portions 22, 24, near crown 16, allow air circulation into and out of the helmet to cool the wearer's head. A bill 38 extends outwardly from front portion 20 of rigid shell 12 in the area generally corresponding to a wearer's forehead. Bill 38 is oriented to extend slightly upwardly from horizontal in normal wearing position, with the upper surface 40 of bill 38 shaped slightly convex to divert precipitation to the sides of the helmet. Bill 38 extends outwardly from front portion 20 to protect a wearer's eyes from sunlight and precipitation, without unduly limiting the wearer's upward view. Snaps 42a, 42b on opposite sides of rigid shell 12, at the lower portion of left and right ear covers 32a, 32b, respectively, permit the attachment of an optional chin strap to secure the helmet to the head of a wearer.

Preferably, rigid shell 12 is constructed from any rigid, impact resistant material. Most preferably, rigid shell 12 is constructed of a rigid plastic material such as Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) or polycarbonate. Rigid shell 12 is preferably formed as a unitary piece, including bill 38, using known processes such as molding or casting. Rigid shell 12 may be custom manufactured to accommodate head sizes from extra small (6-⅜) to extra large (7-½), 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 the inner cavity 30 side to provide a snug, comfortable fit to the wearer's head as is known in the art.

Face Guard

Looking still to FIGS. 1-4, face guard 14 is a wire cage extending across the front opening 26 of rigid shell 12 to protect the wearer's face from stray balls. Face guard 14 includes upper bar 44, extending generally horizontally in an arc from the left side of rigid shell 12, across front opening 26, to the right side of rigid shell 12, in the area approximately above a wearer's brow line. Upper bar 44 thus forms an outward arc-shape across front opening 26 of rigid shell 12, corresponding generally to the outer perimeter of bill 38. A notched portion 46 at approximately the midpoint of upper bar 44 allows attachment of upper bar 44 to an adjustment mechanism 48 (described herein below) attached to the lower surface 50 of bill 38.

In a manner similar to upper bar 44, first, second, and third lower bars 52, 54, 56 extend generally horizontally in an outward arc from the left side of rigid shell 12, across front opening 26, to the right side of rigid shell 12. First lower bar 52 extends across front opening 26 in the area corresponding generally to the nose of the wearer. Thus, upper bar 44 and first lower bar 52 define an unobstructed viewing area 58 in the area of the wearer's eyes, with upper bar 44 bounding the upper side of unobstructed viewing area 58 and first lower bar 52 bounding the lower side of unobstructed viewing area 58. The maximum spacing between upper bar 44 and first lower bar 52 is preferably less than the diameter of a regulation softball, or approximately 3.5 inches or of a regulation baseball, or approximately 2.5 inches. Most preferably, the maximum spacing between upper bar 44 and first lower bar 52 is approximately 1.5 inches to provide protection from baseballs while still providing a large unobstructed viewing area 58. In a manner similar to that of first lower bar 52, second and third lower bars 54, 56 extend across front opening 26 in the area corresponding generally to the mouth and chin of the wearer, respectively.

Opposite ends of upper bar 44, first lower bar 52, second lower bar 54, and third lower bar 56 join to left rear vertical strut 60a and right rear vertical strut 60b, respectively, located at the forward portion of left and right ear covers 32a, 32b respectively. Thus, upper bar 44, first, second and third lower bars 52, 54, 56, and left rear and right rear vertical struts 60a, 60b form a unitary cage extending in an arc shape across front opening 26 of rigid shell 12 to form a barrier to protect a wearer's face from stray balls.

Additional vertical struts extend between first lower bar 52 and third lower bar 56 at the front of face guard 14 to provide additional strength to face guard 14. Front vertical struts 62a, 62b are affixed to first, second, and third lower bars 52, 54, 56 to provide rigidity and maintain the spacing between the first, second, and third lower bars. Left and right mid vertical struts 64a, 64b, located towards the left and right sides, respectively, of face guard 14, between front vertical struts 62a, 62b and rear vertical struts 60a, 60b respectively, extend between upper bar 44 and third lower bar 56, and affix to the upper bar and all of the lower bars, to provide rigidity to face guard 14.

Upper bar 44, first, second, and third lower bars 52, 54, 56, and vertical struts 60a, 60b, 62a, 62b, 64a, 64b 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 14 is constructed from solid tubular steel having a diameter of about 4.8 millimeters. As best seen in FIG. 1, upper bar 44 and first lower bar 52 preferably each comprise two pieces of tubular metal affixed in side-by-side relationship to provide added strength to the members. The upper and lower 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. Preferably, upper bar 44, third lower bar 56, and left rear and right rear vertical struts 60a, 60b are formed as a continuous piece, as shown in FIG. 1. Other materials and configurations for face guard 14 will be apparent to those skilled in the art, and are within the scope of the present invention so long as the face guard complies 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. For example, hollow tubular metal may be used to construct face guard 14, or composite or polymeric materials may be used, so long as the resulting face guard complies with the stated NOSCAE standard. In addition, the horizontal and vertical members of face guard 14 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.

Pivot Mechanism

Looking to FIGS. 1-3, face guard 14 attaches via left and right pivot mechanisms 66a, 66b to left and right ear covers 32a, 32b, respectively. Each pivot mechanism comprises a clip 68a, 68b attached around the respective rear vertical strut, and a fastener 70a, 70b extending through clip 68a, 68b and into rigid shell 12. Clips 68a, 68b are preferably spring clips, wrapped around the rear vertical struts and having an aperture therethrough for inserting fasteners 70a, 70b. Fasteners 70a, 70b are preferably threaded screws engaged with mating apertures in rigid shell 12, or with threaded receptacles on the inner cavity 30 side of rigid shell 12. Other clip or fastening devices know in the art may be used without deviating from the scope of the present invention, and will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

With clips 68a, 68b attached to rear vertical struts 60a, 60b and fasteners 70a, 70b, attaching clips 68a, 68b to rigid shell 12, face guard 14 is pivotally attached to rigid shell 12. Looking to FIGS. 2 and 3, with face guard 14 thus attached, the face guard may be pivoted between an upper position, as shown in FIG. 2, where upper bar 44 is positioned proximate bill 38, and a lower position, as shown in FIG. 3, where upper bar 44 (and thus the entire face guard) is pivoted downwardly away from bill 38, so that a gap 72 is defined between upper bar 44 and the lower surface 50 of bill 38.

With face guard 14 in its upper position, as shown in FIG. 2, a wearer's line-of-sight through unobstructed viewing area 58 between upper bar 44 and first lower bar 52 is forward and upward, as depicted by sight lines x, x′. With face guard 14 in its lower position, as shown in FIG. 3, a wearer's line-of-sight through opening unobstructed viewing area 58 is directed forward and downward, as depicted by sight lines y, y′. Of course, intermittent positions between the upper and lower positions of face guard x will yield different lines-of-sight through unobstructed viewing area 58.

Adjustment Mechanism

Looking now to FIGS. 4-7, adjustment mechanism 48, affixed to the lower surface 50 of bill 38, regulates the pivotal movement of face guard 14 between its upper and lower positions.

Adjustment mechanism 48 comprises a wedge bracket 74 mounted to the underside of bill 38, a clip 76 affixed to notched portion 48 of upper bar 44, and a pin 78 extending through clip 76 to wedge bracket 74. As best seen in FIGS. 5-7, wedge bracket 74 comprises a tapered, u-channel bracket with two extending tabs 80a, 80b, each having an aperture 82a, 82b for affixing the bracket to the underside of bill 38. Wedge bracket 74 is affixed to bill 38 so that the larger end 84 is located near the forward edge of bill 38, tapering to the smaller end 86, located inboard on bill 38. The hollow “u” portion of wedge bracket 74 thus forms a tapered space 88 between bill 38 and the lower surface 90 of wedge bracket 74. An elongated receptacle slot 92 extends along the lower surface 90 of the bracket 74, with the first end 94 of receptacle slot 92 defining a forward stop and the second end 96 of receptacle slot 92 defining a rear stop.

Clip 76 is a spring clip encircling the notched portion 46 of upper bar 44, with an aperture for pin 78 extending through the tab portion of clip 78. Pin 78 is a screw-type threaded fastener inserted through the tab portion of clip 78 into receptacle slot 92 on wedge bracket 74. Keeper 98 is a threaded nut configured to mate with pin 78 and retain the pin within receptacle slot 92.

As shown in FIGS. 5-7, wedge bracket 74 is affixed to the underside of bill 38 using screws 100a, 100b through tabs 80a, 80b into bill 38. With wedge bracket 74 thus affixed, the surface 90 of bracket 74 forms a ramp, with receptacle slot 92 extending nearly the length of the ramp. Clip 76 encircles the notched portion 46 of upper bar 44 of face guard 14, with pin 78 passing through apertures in the tab portion of clip 76 and into receptacle slot 92 on bracket 74. Keeper nut 98 threads onto pin 78 on the u-channel side of wedge bracket 74. With the adjustment mechanism 48 so configured, pin 78 and keeper 98 may be moved back and forth along receptacle 92, the keeper traveling within u-shaped space 88 between wedge bracket 74 and bill 38, and with the pin's movement limited by the stops 94, 96 presented by each end of receptacle slot 92. With clip 76 affixed around notch portion 46 of upper bar 44, pivoting face guard 14 as described above thus moves pin 78 within receptacle slot 92 of wedge bracket 74. With first and second ends 94, 96 of receptacle slot 92 limiting the movement of pin 78, adjustment mechanism 48 thus acts to regulate the pivotal movement of face guard 14.

Tightening keeper nut 98 against wedge bracket 74 increases the friction between the keeper and the wedge bracket, making the adjustment mechanism more resistant to movement. Keeper nut 98 can be further tightened such that it locks pin 78 in place against wedge bracket 74, thus preventing any pivotal movement of face guard 14. Of course, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that variations upon this embodiment may be employed without deviating from the present invention. For example, pin 78 may ride within receptacle slot 92 without the use of a keeper. In addition, wedge bracket 74 may incorporate a pin, with clip 76 incorporating a receptacle to receive the pin. Other variations of the sliding adjustment mechanism will be apparent to those skilled in the art and are anticipated by the present invention.

Operation

In operation, face guard 14 is attached to rigid shell 12 with pivoting mechanisms 66a, 66b as described above. Adjustment mechanism 48 is attached to bill 38 as described above, with clip 76 of the adjustment mechanism affixed around notch portion 46 of upper bar 44 of face guard 14, thus further securing face guard 14 to rigid shell 12.

As shown in FIG. 2, face guard 14 is rotated to an upper position so that a wearer's line-of-sight through unobstructed viewing area 58 of face guard 14 is along lines x and x′. Turning to FIGS. 5-7, it will be apparent that with face guard 14 moved to the upper position, pin 78 will be positioned against the rear stop 96 of receptacle slot 92 on wedge bracket 74. Rear stop 96 thus defines the upper limit to which face guard 14 may be pivoted.

Similarly, still looking to FIGS. 5-7, front stop 94 of receptacle slot 92 defines the lower limit to which face guard 14 may be pivoted. As shown in FIG. 3, with face guard 14 pivoted to its lower position, a wearer's line-of-sight through unobstructed viewing area 58 of face guard 14 is along lines y and y′.

As described above, face guard 14 may be locked into the upper or lower positions, or any point in between, by tightening keeper nut 98 to increase the frictional engagement with wedge bracket 74.

As can be seen, the invention described herein provides a batting helmet and face guard that allows a wearer to adjust the line-of-sight through the unobstructed viewing area of the face guard to the wearer's preference, while simultaneously providing the protective benefits of a conventional batting helmet with a fixed face guard. 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 which could permissibly vary without resulting in a change in the basic function to which it is related. For example, the horizontal and vertical members of face guard 10 are described as being most preferably 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.





 
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