Title:
HELMET SUSPENSION SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A head protection system is disclosed herein. The system may comprise a helmet having a rigid exterior shell and a padded interior. A shoulder cuff may be disposable over left and right shoulders of the wearer. A plurality of pistons may be attached to the helmet and the shoulder cuff. Each of the pistons may be fluidly connected to each other through a tube and ultimately to a reservoir. The tube may have a small inner diameter to provide resistance to movement of the pistons during rapid deceleration or acceleration of the helmet with respect to the wearer's body.



Inventors:
Castillo, James (Los Alamos, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/039459
Publication Date:
09/04/2008
Filing Date:
02/28/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/425, 2/459, 2/413
International Classes:
A41D13/00; A41D27/26; A42B3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
COLLINS, ANDREW WARREN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STETINA BRUNDA GARRED & BRUCKER (ALISO VIEJO, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A head protection system comprising: a helmet having a rigid exterior shell; a shoulder cuff disposable over left and right shoulders of a wearer; a plurality of pistons, each piston defining a first end portion pivotally attached to the rigid exterior shell of the helmet and a second end portion pivotally attached to the shoulder cuff, each piston having a fluid cavity; a viscous fluid disposed within the fluid cavities of the pistons; and a tube fluidly connected to the fluid cavities of the pistons for transferring fluid from the fluid cavity of one piston to the fluid cavity of another piston, the tube having a sufficiently small inner diameter to allow relatively free movement of a wearer's head under normal circumstances but limits the fluid exchange rate upon sudden movement of the wearer's head.

2. The system of claim 1 further comprising a fluid reservoir fluidly connected to the tube for receiving excess fluid released from the pistons or for providing additional fluid to the pistons.

3. The system of claim 1 wherein the fluid reservoir is a deformable bladder.

4. The system of claim 3 wherein the deformable bladder further includes a removeably attachable fill cap.

5. The system of claim 1 further comprising a swivel joint attached to each of the first end portions of the pistons and wherein second end portions of the pistons are pivotally attached to the shoulder cuff.

6. The system of claim 1 comprising four pistons, each piston having three stages.

7. A helmet suspension system attachable to an existing helmet, the helmet suspension system providing protection from neck and back injuries due to an impact, the system comprising: a shoulder cuff disposable over left and right shoulders of a wearer; a plurality of pistons, each piston defining a first end portion pivotally disposable adjacent to the exterior of the helmet and a second end portion pivotally attached to the shoulder cuff, each piston having a fluid cavity; a viscous fluid disposed within the fluid cavities of the pistons; a tube fluidly connected to the fluid cavities of the pistons for transferring fluid from the fluid cavity of one piston to the fluid cavity of another piston, the tube having a sufficiently small inner diameter to allow relatively free movement of a wearer's head under normal circumstances but restricts sudden movement of the wearer's head due to the viscosity of the fluid and the small inner diameter; a pad pivotally attached to each of the first end portions of the pistons; and a net of straps attached to the helmet and the pads for holding each of the pads in place adjacent to the exterior of the helmet during impact.

8. The system of claim 7 wherein the net of straps includes: a first set of straps attachable to an inner peripheral edge of an eye opening of the helmet on the left and right sides of the helmet, fed through the pads disposed on left and right sides of the helmet; a second set of straps attachable to the inner peripheral edge of the eye opening of the helmet on top of the helmet; a third set of straps attached to the pads and attachable to a lower edge of the helmet; and an adjuster attached to the first and second set of straps and operative to tension the net of straps.

9. The system of claim 8 wherein the adjuster is threaded.

10. A method of setting up a helmet suspension system on a wearer engaged in a physical activity, the method comprising the steps of: placing the helmet suspension system on the wearer; with the wearer in a normal position for the physical activity, removing a fill cap of a deformable fluid reservoir; filling the fluid reservoir or removing fluid from the fluid reservoir to mitigate bias on pistons of the helmet suspension system; and attaching the fill cap to the deformable fluid reservoir.

11. The method of claim 10 further comprising the step of bleeding all air from a hydraulic system of the helmet suspension system.

12. The method of claim 10 further comprising the steps of transferring a viscous fluid through a sufficiently small lumen of a tube interconnecting the pistons to resist sudden movement of the wearer's head.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefits of U.S. Prov. Pat. App. Ser. No. 60/904,250, filed Mar. 1, 2007, the entire contents of which is expressly incorporated herein by reference.

STATEMENT RE: FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH/DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates to a suspension system for a helmet to prevent neck and back injuries associated with a crash or other violent motion, but yet allow normal movement of the head during engagement of a physical activity.

Activities that involve high speed, such as motocross racing, boating, flying all involve a risk of a high speed crash. Upon impact, the vehicle may rapidly decelerate to a halt but the participants may continue to travel at the vehicle's full speed. To prevent injury to the participants, participant restraint systems have been incorporated into vehicles. These participant restraint systems include, but are not limited to, seatbelts and harnesses. Unfortunately, upon impact, the seatbelts may prevent the body of the participant from lunging forward. However, the head of the participant may not be restrained. Accordingly, the head of the participant may lunge forward while the body of the participant remains secured to the seatbelt or harness. Such movement of the head with respect to the body may cause injuries to the person's neck and back.

BRIEF SUMMARY

The present invention addresses the deficiencies identified above, discussed below, and those that are known in the art.

A suspension system may be attached to a helmet which generally allows unrestricted movement of the head of the wearer. The head may move at a normal speed when engaged in a physical activity but the system may provide a counterforce to prevent rapid head movement occasioned in a crash or other similar violent misfortune. The suspension system may comprise a plurality of pistons that are interconnected to each other via a tube with a small inner diameter. During normal head movement, the fluid is exchanged between the pistons and/or a reservoir at a low rate via the tube so that the head can easily move or move with negligible resistance. However, upon encountering a rapid movement, the viscosity of the fluid and the small inner diameter tube prevents rapid exchange of fluid through the tube and thereby also prevents rapid movement of the head. The reason is that there may be a steep rise is viscous friction when the fluid is forced through a single fixed orifice (i.e., the tube).

A head protection system is provided herein comprising a helmet having a rigid exterior shell. The system may also comprise a shoulder cuff, a plurality of pistons, a viscous fluid, and a tube. The shoulder cuff may be disposable over left and right shoulders of a wearer. The pistons may each define a first end portion pivotably attached to the rigid exterior shell of the helmet and a second end portion pivotably attached to the shoulder cuff. Each of the pistons may also define a fluid cavity. The viscous fluid may be disposed within the fluid cavities of the pistons. The tube may fluidicly connect the fluid cavities allowing transfer of fluid from the fluid cavity of one piston to the fluid cavity of another piston. The tube may have a sufficiently small inner diameter to allow relatively free movement of the wearer's head under normal circumstances but restricts sudden movement of the wearer's head due to the viscosity of the fluid and the small inner diameter.

The head protection system may further comprise a fluid reservoir fluidicly connected to the tube for receiving excess fluid released from the pistons or for providing additional fluid to the pistons. It is also contemplated that the fluid reservoir may be a deformable bladder. To fill or remove fluid from the fluid reservoir, a fill cap may be removably attachable to the deformable bladder/fluid reservoir.

The head protection system may comprise a helmet suspension system that may be retrofitted to an existing helmet. To this end, a net of straps (e.g., cords, etc.) may be attached to the helmet and hold the pistons in place during normal usage of the helmet and also during sudden impact.

A method of setting up the helmet suspension system on a wearer engaged in a particular physical activity is also disclosed herein. In particular, the method may comprise the steps of placing the helmet suspension system on the wearer. While the wearer is in a normal position for the particular physical activity, the fill cap may be removed from the deformable fluid reservoir. By removing the fill cap from the deformable fluid reservoir, any bias due to the deformation of the fluid reservoir may be removed from the hydraulic system of the helmet suspension system. Additional fluid may have to be inserted into the deformable fluid reservoir to eliminate air from within the hydraulic system of the helmet suspension system or fluid may have to be removed from the deformable fluid reservoir to bring the deformable fluid reservoir back to its non-deformed normal state such that deformation of the fluid reservoir does not bias the pistons in any manner when the wearer is in the normal position for the particular physical activity. After the fluid has been filled in the fluid reservoir or removed from the fluid reservoir, the fill cap may be reattached to the deformable fluid reservoir to close the hydraulic system. At this point, the hydraulic system of the helmet suspension system may be airless. Also, the pistons are not biased when the wearer is in the normal position for the particular physical activity.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features and advantages of the various embodiments disclosed herein will be better understood with respect to the following description and drawings, in which like numbers refer to like parts throughout, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a rear perspective view of a first embodiment of a helmet suspension system;

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of a tube used in the helmet suspension system of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 3 is a rear perspective view of a second embodiment of the helmet suspension system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 is a rear perspective view of a first embodiment of the helmet suspension system 10. The helmet suspension system 10 may incorporate at least one piston or ram 12. Preferably, the helmet suspension system 10 may include four pistons 12, as shown in FIG. 1. The first piston 12 may be located in the front right area of the wearer. The second piston 12 may be located at the rear right area of the wearer. The third piston 12 may be located at the left rear area of the wearer. Lastly, the forth piston 12 (not shown) may be located around the front left area of the wearer. These pistons 12 limit movement of the helmet 14 upon experiencing extreme high velocity differential between the head and body of the wearer. However, during normal usage, the pistons 12 permit the wearer to rotate his/her head to engage in an activity (e.g., skiing, snowboarding, motocross, racecar driving, cycling, etc.). By way of example and not limitation, in motocross racing, the wearer may be in a normal sitting stance on the motorcycle. While riding the motorcycle, the wearer may look left, right, up or down to keep track of various obstacles in front or to track competitors behind him/her. The pistons 12 permit normal rotation of the wearer's head for the particular activity with negligible resistance to head rotation. In the event of a crash, the wearer may be thrown from his/her motorcycle and possibly hit his/her head on a hard object. The head of the wearer upon hitting the ground may experience violent forces on the wearer's neck due to the impact. Fortunately, the pistons 12 react in an opposing manner to prevent the helmet, and thus, the head of the wearer from sudden movement due to the crash. Beneficially, injuries to the wearer's neck and back are minimized or prevented.

The pistons 12 may be attached to the helmet 14 and to cuff 16 worn about the shoulder area of the wearer. The piston 12 may define an upper distal end portion 18 and a lower distal end portion 20. The upper distal end portion 18 may be fixedly attached to the exterior hard shell of the helmet 14. Moreover, the upper distal end portion 18 may swivel or pivot in relation to the helmet 14. Likewise, the lower distal end portion 20 may be pivotably attached to the cuff 16. By way of example and not limitation, the lower distal end portion 20 may be formed as a ball 22 that may be received into a socket 24 attached or formed into the cuff 16. Similarly, the upper distal end portion 18 may be fixedly attached to a swivel joint 26 to allow multi-axis rotation. The swivel joint 26 may be fixedly attached to the helmet 14. The pistons 12 may each contain hydraulic fluid which may be non-toxic to the wearer in the event that the hydraulic fluid is leaked out of the system 10. The pistons 12 may be a two stage or three stage (as shown) piston that pushes fluid out of the piston 12 or receives fluid back into the pistons 12. To provide resistance to linear movement of the pistons 12, the pistons 12 may be fluidly connected to each other via a tube 28. The tube 28 may have a small inner diameter 30 (see FIG. 2). The viscosity of the fluid and the small size of the inner diameter 30 of the tube 28 limit the rate of fluid exchange through the tube 28. Accordingly, upon impact of the helmet 14, the pistons 12 will attempt to push the fluid through the tube 28. Since the rate of fluid exchange through the tube 28 is limited by the viscosity of the fluid and the size of the inner diameter 30 of the tube 28, rapid movement of the pistons 12 and the helmet 14 are prevented thereby preventing rapid movement of the head and injuries to the wearer's neck and back.

The tube 28 may also be fluidly connected to a reservoir 32. The reservoir 32 may be protected by a plastic or rigid cover that may be fixedly attached to or be a part of a back paddle 36. The reservoir 32 may be a deformable bladder that allows for unequal displacement of fluid in each of the pistons 12. For example, not all of the fluid exiting out of one of the pistons 12 may enter a different piston 12. The excess fluid would then be routed to the reservoir 32. Since the reservoir 32 is a deformable bladder, the excess fluid will expand the bladder to allow the wearer's head to move regardless of unequal fluid displacement. Conversely, the pistons receiving fluid may receive more fluid compared to the amount of fluid displaced out of the other pistons. Since the reservoir 32 is a deformable bladder, the bladder will contract to provide the additional fluid necessary to the pistons.

The reservoir 32 may have a fill cap 34. The fill cap 34 may be removed from the reservoir 32 to remove fluid from the reservoir 32 to prevent the expanded bladder from biasing the pistons 12 when the wearer is in a normal position for a particular physical activity. Initially, the wearer may wear the helmet suspension system 10. The wearer may assume the normal position of the sport he/she will be engaged in. For example, in motocross racing, the wearer may be in the generally upright seated position with hands up front. In this position, the pistons 12 may be lengthened or shortened thereby displacing fluid from the pistons through the tube and into the reservoir. At this normal position, the bladder may be expanded. The expanded bladder may place pressure on the fluid that is transferred to the pistons so as to bias the pistons 12. To remove the bias, the fill cap 34 may be removed and fluid removed from the reservoir 32 to bring the bladder back to its normal size. This prevents a biasing force from being transferred from the reservoir 32 through the tube 28 to the pistons 12.

Conversely, if the bladder is contracted when the wearer is in the normal position for a particular physical activity, then additional fluid may be required. The fill cap 34 may be removed and fluid may be injected into the reservoir 32. Other normal positions other than generally upright are also contemplated. For example, in cycling, the wearer's head may be slightly tilted upward. To install the helmet suspension system, the wearer may assume the normal riding position (i.e., head tilted upward). The wearer may be hunched forward with his/her head slightly raised to see the road ahead. The fill cap 34 may then be removed from the reservoir 32. Fluid may then be inserted into the reservoir or removed therefrom, as needed, to prevent any biasing force due to the deformation of the bladder acting on the pistons 12 through the tube 28 when the wearer is in the normal position.

The cuff 16 may comprise a back paddle 36 which may begin approximately 7 in. below the wearer's shoulder. The reservoir 32 may be fixedly engaged to the back paddle 36. The cuff 16 may then split into left and right paddles 38, 40. The left and right paddles 38, 40 are disposable upon the left and right shoulders of the wearer, respectively. The left and right paddles 38, 40 may be hinged to the back paddle 36 with a hinge 62 to allow the left and right paddles 38, 40 to move outward such that the wearer may put on or take off the helmet suspension system 10. In the front of the left and right paddles 38, 40, a latch 42 may secure the left and right paddles 38, 40 together. With the latch 42 attaching the left and right paddles 38, 40 together, the cuff 16 may be comfortably rested upon the shoulders of the wearer. The latch 42 may be adjustable such that the left and right paddles 38, 40 may be spread apart or brought closer together depending on size and body contour of the wearer.

The helmet suspension system 10 may be secured to the wearer by the chin strap of the helmet 14. Alternatively, the chin strap may be optionally removed from the helmet 10. To maintain the helmet on the wearer's head without the chin strap, the cuff 16 may be attached to suspenders attached to a belt worn by the wearer. Accordingly, the helmet 14 and the helmet suspension system 10 are secured to the wearer via the suspenders. The suspenders may be elastic but are preferably rigid and adjustable such that the wearer can cinch the helmet suspension system 10 down upon the wearer's shoulder. Alternatively, the cuff 16 may be integrated into the clothing (e.g., jumpsuit) of the wearer.

The pistons 12 shown in FIGS. 1 and 3 are a three stage piston. Each of the stages is telescopically insertable into a lower stage. More particularly, each three stage piston may comprise a first upper stage, a second middle stage, and a third lower stage. The first upper stage may be telescopically inserted or removed from the second middle stage. The second middle stage may be telescopically inserted or removed from the third lower stage. When the first upper stage is inserted into the second middle stage or the second middle stage is inserted into the third lower stage, fluid may exit the fluid cavity of the piston. Conversely, when the first upper stage is removed from the second middle stage or the second middle stage is removed from the third lower stage, fluid may enter the fluid cavity of the piston. It is also contemplated that a two stage piston may also be used or incorporated into the helmet suspension system 10. The size and number of piston stages may be selected based on the range of motion required for the particular physical activity. The system 10 may be designed such that the stages are about half way through their stroke when the user is in the normal position for the particular physical activity. It is also contemplated that the system 10 may comprise three pistons, two pistons in the front and one larger ram in the rear. It is also contemplated that the system 10 may comprise two pistons with tethers.

In a second embodiment of the helmet suspension system 10, the same may be incorporated into existing helmets 14, as shown in FIG. 3. The helmet suspension system 10 may incorporate all the features described above in relation to the first embodiment except that the upper distal end portions 18 of the pistons 12 may be attached to a respective pad 44. The pads 44 are connectable to the swivel joints 26 that are attached to the upper distal end portions 18 of the pistons 12.

The pads 44 are held against the helmet 14 via a net of cords or straps. In particular, a first cord 46 may be hooked onto an inner peripheral opening 48 of the helmet 14. The cord 46 may be routed through an opening of each of the pads 44 and connected to an adjuster 50. The adjuster 50 may also be attached to two cords 52, 54 that hook to the inner peripheral opening 48 of the helmet 14 under the visor 56. A third cord 58 may be attached to the pads 44 and hooked under the bottom edge 60 of the helmet 14. The adjuster 50 may place tension on the cord 46 to tighten the entire net of cords and effectively hold the upper distal end portions 18 of the pistons 12 in place.

In an aspect of the helmet suspension system, the hydraulic system of the helmet suspension system 10 may be fitted with an adjustable flow restrictor. One or more adjustable flow restrictors may be in fluid communication with the tube 28. For example, a flow restrictor may be placed between two pistons 12 or between the piston 12 and the reservoir 32. In this situation, the tube 28 does not require a small inner diameter. The flow restrictor in conjunction with the viscosity of the fluid may restrict fluid flow through the tube 28 upon impact or sudden movement of the head due to a crash or the like.

The above description is given by way of example, and not limitation. Given the above disclosure, one skilled in the art could devise variations that are within the scope and spirit of the invention disclosed herein, including various ways of attaching the upper distal end portions of the rams or pistons to a helmet for retrofitting the helmet suspension system to an existing helmet. Further, the various features of the embodiments disclosed herein can be used alone, or in varying combinations with each other and are not intended to be limited to the specific combination described herein. Thus, the scope of the claims is not to be limited by the illustrated embodiments.