Title:
Sports helmet with removable facemask
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A sports helmet, such as a batting helmet, includes a shell and a facemask that is removably attached to the shell with at least one fastening component that is integral with the facemask and at least one mating fastening component that is integral with the shell. The facemask may have at least one integral fastening component at each distal end of the facemask. Correspondingly, the shell may have at least one mating fastening component on each of two opposing interior surfaces of the shell. The fastening components can be removably connected to the mating fastening components on the interior surface of the shell. The helmet may include an ear guard attached to the facemask and removably attached to the shell with at least one fastening component that is integral with the ear guard and at least one mating fastening component that is integral with the shell.



Inventors:
Udelhofen, Patrick (Chicago, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/893027
Publication Date:
02/19/2009
Filing Date:
08/14/2007
Assignee:
Wilson Sporting Goods Co.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/425, 2/9
International Classes:
A42B1/08; A41D13/00; A63B71/10
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
QUINN, RICHALE LEE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Wilson Sporting Goods Co. (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A sports helmet, comprising: a shell; and a facemask removably attached to the shell with at least one fastening component that is integral with the facemask and at least one mating fastening component that is integral with the shell, the sports helmet configured for competitive play in organized competition.

2. The sports helmet of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the at least one fastening component is flexible.

3. The sports helmet of claim 1, wherein the at least one fastening component comprises a tab and the at least one mating fastening component comprises a pair of stop regions, and the tab can be slid between the stop regions and locked in place.

4. The sports helmet of claim 1, wherein the at least one fastening component comprises a projection and the at least one mating fastening component comprises a recessed area, and the projection can be inserted into the recessed area and locked in place.

5. The sports helmet of claim 1, wherein the at least one fastening component comprises two projections and the at least one mating fastening component comprises two recessed areas, and the projections can be inserted into the recessed areas and locked in place.

6. The sports helmet of claim 1, wherein the facemask comprises at least one integral ear guard.

7. The sports helmet of claim 1, further comprising a curved bill molded into the shell.

8. The sports helmet of claim 1, further comprising padding attached to an interior of the shell.

9. The sports helmet of claim 1, further comprising a chinstrap removably attached to the helmet.

10. The sports helmet of claim 1, wherein the helmet is selected from the group consisting of a batting helmet, a catcher's mask, an umpire's mask, a lacrosse helmet, a football helmet, a ski helmet and a hockey helmet.

11. A batting helmet, comprising: a shell having at least one integral mating fastening component on each of two opposing interior surfaces of the shell; and a facemask having at least one integral fastening component at each distal end of the facemask, wherein the fastening components can be removably connected to the mating fastening components on the interior surface of the shell, the batting helmet configured for competitive play in organized competition.

12. The batting helmet of claim 11, wherein the at least one fastening component at each distal end of the facemask comprises a flexible tab and the at least one mating fastening component on each of two opposing interior surfaces of the shell comprises two projections, and the flexible tab can be slid between the projections and locked in place.

13. The batting helmet of claim 11, wherein the at least one fastening component at each distal end of the facemask comprises a projection and the at least one mating fastening component on each of two opposing interior surfaces of the shell comprises a recessed area, and the projection can be inserted into the recessed area and locked in place.

14. The batting helmet of claim 11, wherein the facemask comprises an integral ear guard at each distal end of the facemask, with an integral fastening component extending from each ear guard.

15. The batting helmet of claim 11, further comprising a curved bill molded into the shell, with at least one bar of the facemask in pressurized communication with the bill when the facemask is attached to the shell.

16. The batting helmet of claim 11, comprising at least two integral mating fastening components on each of the two opposing interior surfaces of the shell, and at least one integral fastening component set inward from each distal end of the facemask, in addition to the at least one integral fastening component at each distal end of the facemask.

17. The batting helmet of claim 16, wherein the at least one fastening component at each distal end of the facemask comprises a different type of fastening component than the at least one integral fastening component set inward from each distal end of the facemask, and the at least two mating fastening components on each of two opposing interior surfaces of the shell comprise two different types of mating fastening components.

18. The batting helmet of claim 16, wherein the at least one fastening component at each distal end of the facemask comprises the same type of fastening component as the at least one integral fastening component set inward from each distal end of the facemask, and the at least two mating fastening components on each of two opposing interior surfaces of the shell comprises the same type of mating fastening components.

19. A sports helmet, comprising: a shell; an ear guard removably attached to the shell; and a facemask positioned between the shell and the ear guard and removably attached to the shell with at least one fastening component that is integral with the ear guard and at least one mating fastening component that is integral with the shell.

20. The sports helmet of claim 19, wherein the ear guard is not integral with the facemask.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a sports helmet having a removable facemask.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Helmets are a key type of protective equipment used in a variety of sports. In baseball, in particular, batters typically wear a helmet when they step up to the plate. The helmet serves to protect the batter's head from severe injury when a waywardly pitched ball and/or the batter's stance result in a collision between the ball and the batter's head.

In many team sports, a team may share a limited number of helmets among the team members. For instance, in baseball, only one batter is up to bat at a time, and up to three baserunners. Therefore, many teams use four helmets or less to accommodate the needs of an entire baseball team.

Many sports helmets, such as batting helmets, include a facemask. The facemask provides a framework positioned in front of the wearer's face to protect the wearer's face from direct contact with a ball without fully obstructing the wearer's vision. However, a facemask may seem cumbersome to some wearers, and the facemask inevitably blocks at least a small portion of the wearer's field of vision. Thus, some batters prefer helmets that do not include a facemask.

Conventional sports helmets often include removable facemasks that are threadedly fastened to the helmet. For example, two screws may be used to attach the facemask to the right side of the helmet and two additional screws may be used to attach the facemask to the left side of the helmet. The capability to remove the facemask from the helmet allows the helmet to accommodate each player's preference, whether the player prefers a helmet having a facemask or a facemask-free helmet. However, the act of removing or reattaching the facemask is often time-consuming, particularly when a team has a small number of helmets relative to the number of players. Additionally, the attachment hardware, such as screws, may be easily lost either during the facemask removal or reattachment process, or even when the helmet is in storage, in transport, or when in use.

Additionally, many existing facemasks and their fasteners provide an unpleasing appearance to the helmet. The facemask may severely distort the overall appearance of the helmet and make the helmet look very unattractive, particularly to young users.

It would thus be desirable to provide a sports helmet with a facemask that can be quickly and easily removed and reattached. It would also be desirable to provide a sports helmet with a removable facemask that does not require the removal of small parts that are susceptible to getting lost. It would also be advantageous to provide a helmet and facemask assembly that provides a smooth, complementary and pleasing appearance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention presents a sports helmet having a removable facemask. The facemask can be quickly and easily removed from and reattached to the helmet. All of the fastening components and mating fastening components are integrated into the helmet and the facemask. Consequently, there are no small parts that are susceptible to getting lost.

In particular, the sports helmet includes a facemask removably attached to a shell with at least one fastening component that is integral with the facemask and at least one mating fastening component that is integral with the shell. Suitably, the fastening components are located at each distal end of the facemask and the mating fastening components are located on each of two opposing interior surfaces of the shell. In certain embodiments, at least a portion of the fastening component or fastening components may be flexible such that the fastening component can be physically manipulated for insertion into or removal from the corresponding mating fastening component.

For example, the fastening component may include a tab and the corresponding mating fastening component may include two projections. To attach the facemask to the shell, the tab can be slid between the projections and locked in place. If the tab is flexible, the tab can be squeezed together to fit into place between the projections. Conversely, to remove the facemask from the shell, the tab can be slid out from between the projections, possibly by squeezing the tab to force the tab to fit between the projections.

As another example, the fastening component may include one or more projections and the corresponding mating fastening component may include one or more recessed areas. To attach the facemask to the shell, the projections can be inserted into the corresponding recessed areas. Conversely, to remove the facemask from the shell, the projections can be removed from the corresponding recessed areas.

In certain embodiments, the facemask may include at least one integral fastening component set inward from each distal end of the facemask in addition to the at least one integral fastening component at each distal end of the facemask, along with at least two integral mating fastening components on each of the two opposing interior surfaces of the shell. The fastening components at the distal ends of the facemask may be the same type of fastening components as those that are set inward from the distal ends of the facemask and, correspondingly, the at least two mating fastening components on each of the two opposing interior surfaces of the shell may be the same type of mating fastening components. For example, the fastening components may be projections and the mating fastening components may be in the form of recessed areas. Alternatively, the fastening components at the distal ends of the facemask may be a different type of fastening component than the fastening components that are set inward from each distal end of the facemask and, correspondingly, the at least two mating fastening components on each of the two opposing interior surfaces of the shell may be two different types of mating fastening components. For example, one of the types of fastening components may be a flexible tab that can be inserted between two projection-type mating fastening components on the shell, and another of the types of fastening components may be a projection that can be inserted into a recessed-area-type mating fastening component on the shell.

The sports helmet may include a variety of features in addition to the removable facemask. For instance, the facemask may include an integral ear guard at each distal end of the facemask. The integral fastening component may extend from the ear guard. Alternatively, the ear guard may be separate from both the facemask and the shell, but may be refastenably attached to the shell with the facemask positioned between the ear guard and the shell. In this embodiment, the fastening components may be integral with the ear guard and refastenably attached to the mating fastening components that are integral with the shell.

Additionally, a curved bill may be molded into the shell. To ensure a secure fit between the facemask and the shell, at least one bar of the facemask may be engaged with the bill when the facemask is attached to the shell. The helmet may also include such features as padding attached to an interior of the shell, and/or a chinstrap that is removably attached to the helmet.

The sports helmet may be, in particular, a batting helmet. Alternatively, the removable facemask construction of this helmet may be applied to a variety of other types of sports helmets including, but not limited to, a catcher's mask, an umpire's mask, a lacrosse helmet, a football helmet, a ski helmet, a snow-boarding helmet and a hockey helmet.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a sports helmet with a removable facemask.

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of a sports helmet showing attachment points of a removable facemask.

FIG. 3 is an exploded side view of a sports helmet showing attachment points of a removable facemask.

FIG. 4 is a side view of a sports helmet having a removable facemask.

FIG. 5 is a partial interior side view of a sports helmet with a removable facemask, taken along line 5-5 in FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a partial view of the attachment between the facemask and the shell, taken along line 6-6 in FIG. 4.

FIG. 7 is a partial side view of the attachment between the facemask and the shell shown in FIG. 6, illustrating the facemask removed from the shell.

FIG. 8 is a partial side view of the attachment between the facemask and the shell shown in FIG. 6, illustrating the insertion of a fastening component on the facemask into a mating fastening component on the shell.

FIG. 9 is a partial side view of the attachment between the facemask and the shell shown in FIG. 6, further illustrating cross-sectional lines for FIGS. 11-13.

FIG. 10 is a partial side view of the attachment between the facemask and the shell shown in FIG. 6, illustrating the removal of a fastening component on the facemask from a mating fastening component on the shell.

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 11-11 in FIG. 9.

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 12-12 in FIG. 9.

FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 13-13 in FIG. 9.

FIG. 14 is perspective view of another embodiment of a sports helmet with a removable facemask.

FIG. 15 is an exploded perspective view of the sports helmet in FIG. 14 showing attachment points of the removable facemask.

FIG. 16 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 16-16 in FIG. 14.

FIG. 17 is an exploded side view of another embodiment of a sports helmet showing attachment points of a removable facemask.

FIG. 18 is an interior side view of an ear guard including two different types of fastening components.

FIG. 19 is a partial side view of a sports helmet with the ear guard in FIG. 18 and a removable facemask attached to the helmet.

FIG. 20 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 20-20 in FIG. 19.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1, a sports helmet having a removable facemask is indicated generally at 20. The helmet 20 of FIG. 1 is configured as a batting helmet; however, the invention can also be applied to other types of helmets, such as, for example, a catcher's mask/helmet, an umpire's mask/helmet, a lacrosse helmet, a football helmet, a hockey helmet, and practically any other type of helmet that includes a facemask. The helmet 20 includes a shell 22, a padding assembly (or head support assembly) (not shown), and a facemask 24.

The sports helmet 20 of the present invention is configured for competitive play in organized competition. For the purposes of this invention the term “configured for competitive play in organized competition” refers to a helmet that satisfies the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (“NOCSAE”) Standards, or equivalent requirements. In particular, the helmet satisfies:

    • NOCSAE Document ND001-04m05a entitled “Standard Drop Test Method and Equipment Used in Evaluating the Performance Characteristics of Protective Headgear,” modified December 2005; and
    • NOCSAE Document ND021-98m05a entitled “Standard Projectile Impact Testing Method and Equipment Used in Evaluating the Performance Characteristics of Protective Headgear, Faceguards or Projectiles,” modified December 2005.

The shell 22 is a generally hemispherically-shaped head covering, which forms a cranial cavity 26 configured to generally cover and protect the upper portion of a user's head. The shell 22 has a dome-like crown 28, a generally continuous circumferential side wall 30, and first and second ear protective regions 32 and 34. Preferably, the crown 28, side wall 30, and first and second ear protective regions 32 and 34 are molded from a single material source. In alternative preferred embodiments, one or more of these shell 22 regions can be formed from separate pieces and integrated with the shell 22, such as through thermal bonding, adhesive bonding, or other suitable types of bonding known to those skilled in the art. Additionally, a curved bill 36 may be molded into the shell 22, or otherwise integrated with the shell 22. Other types of helmets may differ in terms of the shell configuration. For example, football helmets may not include the bill 36.

The shell 22 is formed of a rigid, durable material, preferably, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (“ABS”). In alternative preferred embodiments, the shell 22 can be formed of other materials, such as, for example, a polycarbonate, plastic, aluminum, or other polymers. One example of a commercially-available material having considerable durability is Surlyn® produced by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, 1007 Market St. Wilmington, Del. 19898 (“DuPont”). The shell 22 is configured to protect the user's head by resisting, absorbing and distributing impact loads, such as, for example, the impact from a pitched ball, thereby reducing the load transferred to or felt by the user due to an impact. The padding assembly (not shown) is coupled to an inner surface of the shell 22 and may include a plurality of support members configured to dampen, reduce, absorb, and/or dissipate shock resulting from an impact of the helmet with an object, and reduce the shock transferred to, or felt by, the wearer due to an impact. The padding assembly can be formed of a lightweight, cushionable, resilient material, such as a foam material formed of ethyl vinyl acetate (“EVA foam”), or other open or closed cellular or non-cellular foam, a gel, a fluid-filled bladder, a plurality of spherical balls, a plurality of other geometric objects, or an air-filled bladder. Referring to FIG. 5 one pad 18 of a pad assembly is shown.

The shell 22 further preferably includes a plurality of ventilation holes 38 for enabling air to flow into and out of the helmet 20. As shown in FIG. 1, a plurality of ventilation holes 38 can be spaced apart above the bill 36, across the crown 28, and along the side wall 30. The location, orientation, size, shape, and number of ventilation holes 38 may vary, or the shell 22 can be absent of ventilation holes.

Referring to FIG. 2, the facemask 24 can be quickly and easily removed from or reattached to the shell 22. The facemask 24 includes at least one integral fastening component 40 and the shell 22 includes at least one integral mating fastening component 42. As used herein, the term “integral” refers to components that are either molded from a single material source, or are formed from separate pieces and integrated with the shell 22, such as through thermal bonding, adhesive bonding, or other suitable types of bonding known to those skilled in the art. Since all of the fastening components 40 and mating fastening components 42 are integral with the facemask 24 and shell 22, there are no small parts that are susceptible to getting lost.

With further reference to FIG. 2, the facemask 24 includes a series of vertical and horizontal bars 44 fitted over, at or near a face opening 46 in the helmet 20 and is configured to protect a wearer's face without adversely obstructing the wearer's vision or ability to breathe. The bars 44 of the facemask 24 are made of a rigid material, such as, for example, ABS, other high-density polymers, such as Surlyn®, aluminum, composite fiber materials, and combinations thereof. The number, size, shape, and placement of the bars 44 may vary among different embodiments, as the removable facemask 24 fastening components 40 described herein are adaptable for use with a wide range of facemask 24 configurations. For example, the bars 44 can be formed in other shapes, such as curved shapes, angled shapes, geometric shapes, irregular shapes and combinations thereof.

Referring to FIGS. 2-6, one or more fastening components 40 located at each distal end 48 of the facemask 24 refastenably secure the facemask 24 to one or more mating fastening components 42 located on each of two opposing interior surfaces 50 of the shell 22. Preferably, the opposing interior surfaces 50 correspond to the first and second ear protective regions 32 and 34 of the shell 22 covering a wearer's ears. Alternatively, the opposing interior surfaces can be located at other locations about the shell.

As illustrated by the dashed lines in FIG. 2, there may be at least three points of contact between the facemask 24 and the shell 22. More particularly, the fastening components 40 extending from the facemask 24 can be refastenably attached to the mating fastening components 42 on the interior surfaces 50 of the shell 22 and, additionally, at least one bar 44 of the facemask 24 may be engaged with, and bear against, the bill 36 when the facemask 24 is attached to the shell 22. The contact between the bar 44 of the facemask 24 and the bill 36 facilitates the centering or alignment of the mask 24 to the shell 22, and provides further stabilization of the facemask 24. The at least one bar 44 of the facemask and, like the fastening components 40 and mating fastening components 42, require no separate fasteners.

FIG. 3 shows how the facemask 24 is aligned with the shell 22 prior to fastening the facemask 24 to the shell 22. FIG. 4 shows the facemask 24 refastenably attached to the shell 22. In an enlarged view of the fastening component 40 extending from the facemask 24 engaged with the mating fastening component 42 on the interior surface 50 of the shell 22, as illustrated in FIG. 5, arrows 52 pointing toward one another indicate the forces acting on the fastening component 40 by the mating fastening component 42 and holding the fastening component 40 in place between the two-piece mating fastening component 42.

In certain embodiments, at least a portion of the fastening component 40 and/or mating fastening component 42 may be flexible such that the fastening component 40 can be physically manipulated for insertion into or removal from the corresponding mating fastening component 42. For example, the fastening component 40 and/or mating fastening component 42 may be formed of nylon, an elastomer, metal, or other flexible materials. In certain embodiments, the fastening component 40 may be composed of a flexible material and the mating fastening component 42 may be composed of a rigid, non-yielding material, such that the fastening component 40 can be manipulated into engagement with the mating fastening component 42. In other embodiments, the mating fastening component 42 may be composed of a flexible material and the fastening component 40 may be composed of a rigid, non-yielding material, such that the mating fastening component 42 yields under pressure when engaged with the fastening component 40.

The mating fastening component 42 can be integrally formed to the shell 22 or otherwise securely attached to the shell 22. The mating fastening component 42 defines a slot or cavity for receiving fastening component 40. The configuration of the fastening component 40 and mating fastening component 42 may be any of a variety of suitable refastenable fastener types. For example, as illustrated in FIGS. 1-20, the fastening component 40 may include a tab and the corresponding mating fastening component 42 may include two projections or stop regions. To attach the facemask 24 to the shell 22, the tab can be slid between the projections and locked in place. If the tab is flexible, the tab can be squeezed together to fit into place between the projections. Conversely, to remove the facemask 24 from the shell 22, the tab can be slid out from between the projections, possibly by squeezing the tab to force the tab to fit between the projections.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged view of the side of the shell 22 with a portion cut-away to enable the fastening components 40 and 42 to be seen. In one preferred embodiment, the fastening component 40 is in the form of a flexible generally T-shaped tab having first and second arms 60 and 62 in engagement with first and second stop regions 64 and 66 of the mating fastening component 42 along the interior surface 50 of the shell 22. Similarly, FIG. 7 illustrates the fastening component 40 at the distal end 48 of the facemask 24 aligned with the mating fastening component 42 on the interior surface 50 of the shell 22 prior to engagement of the fastening component 40 with the mating fastening component 42. FIG. 8 illustrates the first and second arms 60 and 62 of the fastening component 40 yielding under pressure as the fastening component 40 is moved toward the mating fastening component 42 in the direction of the arrow 54. Like FIG. 6, FIG. 9 shows the fastening component 40 in engagement with the mating fastening component 42.

Referring to FIGS. 6-10, in one preferred embodiment, the mating fastening component 42 advantageously defines first and second openings 68 and 70 accessible from the interior surface 50 of the shell 22 for allowing a user to readily access the first and second arms 60 and 62 of the fastening component 40 with his or her fingertips to initiate disengagement of the fastening component 40 from the mating fastening component 42. FIG. 10 illustrates the application of force indicated by arrows 52 to the first and second arms 60 and 62 of the mating fastening component 40 by the fingertips 72 (shown in phantom as ovals) of a user positioned through the first and second openings 68 and 70 of the mating fastening component 42. Once the first and second arms are depressed or compressed by the user, the mask 24 and the fastening component 40 can be withdrawn from the mating fastening component 42 in a direction indicated by arrow 56. Once disengaged from the mating fastening component 42, the resilient first and second arms 60 and 62 of the fastening component 40 return to their normal position (as shown in FIG. 7). The releasable engagement between the fastening component 40 and the mating fastening components 42 provide a secure mechanism for quickly, easily and efficiently engaging the mask 24 to the shell 22 and, when desired, readily removing the mask 24 from the shell 22. The engagement and release of the mask 24 to and from the shell 22 is performed without the use of tools and without the use of separate fasteners (such as screws, nuts and bolts) to readily and securely position the mask 24 to the shell and then subsequently readily remove the mask 24 from the shell 22.

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view of FIG. 9 showing the facemask 24 flush-mounted to the shell 22 in the region of an ear guard 58. The flush engagement of the ear guards 58 of the mask 24 with the shell 22 (also shown on FIG. 1), provides a clean, aesthetically pleasing appearance to the sports helmet 20. The ear guards 58 enable the mask 24 to appear as a natural extension of the shell 22. Further, the sports helmet of the present invention has no visible fasteners detracting from the overall look and design of the face mask 24 and the shell 22. FIGS. 12 and 13 are both cross-sectional views of FIG. 9 showing the fastening component 40 engaged with the mating fastening component 42. FIGS. 11-13 provide further detail of the structure of the fastening component 40 of the shell 22 and its releasable engagement with the mating fastening component 42.

An alternative preferred embodiment of the mating fastening component 42 is illustrated in FIGS. 14 and 15. More particularly, the first and second openings 68 and 70 of the mating fastening component 42 can extend through the outer surface of the shell 22 thereby allowing a user to access the first and second arms 60 and 62 of the fastening component 40 from the outside of the helmet 20. Accordingly, the first and second openings 68 and 70 extending through the outer surface of the shell 22 at the mating fastening component 42, enable the user or other person to actuate the first and second arms 60 and 62 of the fastening component 40 and release the facemask 24 from the shell 24 in a quick, efficient manner without having to remove the helmet from the user's head. FIG. 16 is a cross-sectional view of the mating fastening component 42, taken along line 16-16 in FIG. 14. The first and second openings 68 and 70 can provide additional ventilation through the helmet, as well as enhance the aesthetic appeal of the shell 22. Alternatively, the first and second holes 68 and 70 may extend only through the outer surface of the shell 22 and not through the inner surface 50 of the shell 22 and/or the mating fastening component 42.

Another alternative configuration of the fastening component 40 and mating fastening component 42 is one in which the fastening component 40 includes one or more projections and the corresponding mating fastening component 42 includes one or more recessed areas. For example, the fastening component 40 may include two spaced-apart projections and the mating fastening component 42 may include two spaced-apart recessed areas. The facemask 24 may be attached to the shell 22 by inserting the projections into the corresponding recessed areas. Conversely, the facemask 24 may be removed from the shell 22 by removing the projections from the corresponding recessed areas. The recessed areas may be shaped such that a larger opening provides an insertion point for the projections, while a more tapered area of the opening holds the projections in place. Additionally, the projections may have a head extending from a neck, such that the neck fits into the tapered area of the opening while the head prevents the projection from leaving the opening. Consequently, the projection may be inserted into the larger area of the opening and slid into the more tapered area of the opening, thereby securing the fastening component 40 in place.

FIGS. 17-20 illustrate an alternative preferred embodiment of the present invention. Referring to FIGS. 17 and 18, the fastening component 40 can include one, two or three distinct fastening regions 40A, 40B and 40C. The first fastening region 40A is substantially the same as the generally T-shaped tab having first and second arms 60 and 62 of the fastening component 40. The second fastening region 40B can include at least one integral fastening component set inward from each distal end 48 of the facemask 24. The third fastening region 40C includes a ledge 74 configured to engage one of the bars 44 of the facemask 24. Alternatively, the ledge can be configured to directly engage the mating fastening component of the shell.

Referring to FIGS. 17 and 19, an alternative preferred embodiment of the mating fastening component 42 of the shell 22 is shown. The mating fastening component also fastening regions 42A and 42B configured to correspond to the fastening component 40. The first fastening region 42A is substantially similar to the stop regions 64 and 66 and is configured to engage the first and second arms 60 and 62 of the generally T-shaped tab. The second fastening region 42B includes two recessed areas configured to receive the projections of the second fastening region 42A. The additional set of fastening components 40B and mating fastening components 42B may provide a more secure attachment of the facemask 24 to the shell 22.

As illustrated in FIGS. 17-20, one of the types of fastening components 40A may be a flexible tab that can be inserted between the two projection-type mating fastening components of the first fastening region 42A on the shell 22, and another of the types of fastening components 40B may be a pair of projections that can be inserted into a corresponding recessed-area-type mating fastening component 42B on the shell 22. As illustrated in FIG. 17, the recessed-area-type mating fastening component 42B includes a larger area and a more tapered area of the opening, such that the projections can be inserted into the larger areas and slid toward the back of the helmet 20 into the more tapered areas to secure the fastening component 40B into the mating fastening component 42B.

Alternatively, the fastening components 40A at the distal ends 48 of the facemask 24 may be the same type of fastening component as the fastening components 40B that are set inward from the distal ends 48 of the facemask 24 and, correspondingly, the at least two mating fastening components 42A and 42B on each of the two opposing interior surfaces 50 of the shell 22 may be the same type of mating fastening components. For example, all of the fastening components 40A and 40B may be projections and all of the mating fastening components 42A and 42B may be in the form of recessed areas.

The helmet 20 may include a variety of features in addition to the removable facemask 24. For instance, the facemask may include an integral ear guard 58 at each distal end 48 of the facemask 24, as illustrated in FIGS. 1-11, 14, 15, and 17-19. The ear guard 58 may be formed of the same material as the shell 22, for example, or from a different type of material. One or more of the integral fastening components 40 may extend from the ear guard 58. In certain embodiments, the ear guard 58 may be a separate component that can be attached to and removed from the shell 22 or facemask 24 using integrated fastening components and mating fastening components, such as the fastening components 40 and mating fastening components 42 that secure the facemask 24 to the shell 22. The embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 17-20 include an ear guard 58 having the fastening components 40A and 40B integrated therein, such that the facemask 24 is secured to the shell 22 by engaging the fastening components 40A and 40B on the ear guard 58 to the mating fastening components 42A and 42B on the shell 22 with the facemask 24 positioned between the ear guard 58 and the shell 22.

The shell 22 also preferably includes a chin strap (not shown) that is removably attached to the ear guards 58 or the shell 22, with snaps or other suitable fasteners, for example. The chin strap further secures the helmet 20 to the user's head.

The removable facemask 24 embodiments described herein obviate the need for screws or other fasteners, or tools, while enabling a user to swiftly attach or remove the facemask 24 from the shell 22.

In alternative preferred embodiments, other forms of fastening mechanisms can be employed that are integral to the facemask and shell of the sports helmet. For example, tongue and groove type fastening arrangements, snap fit configurations and buckle configurations and/or combinations thereof can also be employed.

While the preferred embodiments of the invention have been illustrated and described, it will be appreciated that various changes can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, while the embodiments described herein are illustrated in a batting helmet, the principles of the present invention could also be used for practically any other sports helmet that includes a facemask. Accordingly, it will be intended to include all such alternatives, modifications and variations set forth within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.