Title:
OPEN VIEW FACEMASK VISOR SHIELD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An open view facemask visor is an apparatus composed of a high impact resistive material any portion of which is capable of filtering or reflecting light. The visor is formed by shaping a nominally thick sample of the impact resistive material such that the finished product can be affixed either over or under a given helmet facemask design. Once installed, an open view facemask visor enhances the protection of a sporting helmet facemask by providing the user a barrier to light, glare, or debris without obscuring the “open view” to the user's eyes. Whether by integrating a clear section in the tinting of the high impact resistive material or simply providing a physically open, or cut-out, section in the visor, proper positioning of the visor shield on the facemask will not obstruct one's ability to view the helmet wearer's eyes.



Inventors:
Wallace, Samuel (Gainesville, GA, US)
Application Number:
12/202992
Publication Date:
04/02/2009
Filing Date:
09/02/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/15, 2/410, 2/425
International Classes:
A42B3/00; A42B3/20; A42B3/22
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
YOON, JANE SUJIN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMITH TEMPEL BLAHA LLC (Atlanta, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus that can be affixed to the facemask of a sporting helmet without impeding the ability of one to visually examine the eyes of a helmet wearer from at least one direct viewing angle, the apparatus comprising: at least one solid surface; a means for securing the apparatus to a sporting helmet facemask.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means for securing the apparatus is configured such that the apparatus may be positioned on the interior of a facemask.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means for securing the apparatus is configured such that the apparatus may be positioned on the exterior of a facemask.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means of securing said apparatus to a facemask causes said apparatus to become integral to said facemask.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means of securing said apparatus to a facemask allows said apparatus to be easily removed.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of said at least one solid surface is comprised of a clear, or substantially clear, material.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of said at least one solid surface defines a cutout window.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of said at least one solid surface is comprised of a material containing photochromic dyes.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means of affixing to a facemask is inherent to the shape of the solid surface.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means of affixing to a facemask is accomplished primarily through the inclusion of tabs extending from the solid surface and capable of being securely formed around, or attached to, a portion of the facemask.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means of affixing to a facemask is accomplished by including a raised bead of material on some portion of the solid surface such that the raised bead could mate with a groove in a facemask wire.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means of affixing to a facemask is accomplished by providing one or more holes along the perimeter of the solid surface such that the apparatus could be securely attached to the facemask.

13. A visor for attachment to the face mask of a sporting helmet, the visor comprising: a visor surface that is structured to cover at least a portion of a void defined by a portion of the face mask; and a mounting structure integral to the visor and that can be attached to the face mask to secure the visor surface over the void.

14. The visor of claim 13, wherein the mounting structure defines a hangover portion that is included on at least two substantially opposing sides of the visor and that can be secured over the outer side of two substantially opposing portions of the face mask.

15. The visor of claim 14, wherein the visor surface covers multiple voids defined by the face mask.

16. The visor of claim 14, wherein the visor surfaces covers substantially only a single void defined by the face mask.

17. The visor of claim 13, wherein the mounting structure defines a sleeve portion that is included on at least two substantially opposing sides of the visor and that can be snapped in the void defined by at least two substantially opposing surfaces of the face mask.

18. The visor of claim 14, wherein the visor surface covers multiple voids defined by the face mask.

19. The visor of claim 14, wherein the visor surfaces covers substantially only a single void defined by the face mask.

20. An athletic helmet comprising: a helmet shell; a facemask that is attachable to the helmet shell and includes a posting wire and a support wire that are substantially parallel to each other and define at least one void with the posting wire and support wire being on substantially opposing sides of the void; and a visor including a shield structure and two mounting flanges on substantially opposing sides of the shield structure such that the visor can be secured over at least a portion of the at least one void by snapping the visor into a position that is frictionally held in place by pressure being exerted against the two mounting flanges by the posting wire and the support wire.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is being filed under 35 USC 111 and 37 CFR 1.53(b) and claims the benefit of the filing date of the United States Provisional Application for patent that was filed on Aug. 30, 2007 and assigned Ser. No. 60/968,950.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to mechanical shielding devices and, more particularly, to impact resistive visor-like devices designed to be fitted on a football helmet facemask without obstruction of the wearer's field of vision.

Football is a full contact sport. Everybody knows that if you're going to play football, you'd better be tough. Even so, to excel at the sport, a player must devote much of his time to the mental side of the game. Many an hour must be logged studying the strategies, schemes, techniques, and position responsibilities. Ultimately, however, it always comes back to toughness. The best student of the game will never be successful as a player unless he has an affinity for bodily impact.

Born of this reality is the term “smash mouth football.” When used, the term is complimentary in nature as it harkens back to a time when men lacking modern day headgear lined up nose to nose along a scrimmage line. Truly, if an individual player, or team, is labeled as “smash mouth” then the implication is one of toughness. Consequently, coaches everywhere over the age of 50 are quick to remind a player who has recently been on the receiving end of a notable collision that “back in the day” he often delivered and received just such blows without benefit of modern day protective head gear. A coach with such a proven track record of toughness wants his player to know that, as a player, the coach epitomized the “smash mouth” concept. To relay this information to his player, the coach will inevitably employ a paraphrase of perhaps the most overused quip of football coaches everywhere: “back when I played the sport, we didn't even HAVE facemasks.”

Thankfully, today's players DO have facemasks and have had them for decades. As football continued to grow in popularity and participation over the past century, the technology relating to football equipment advanced accordingly. Predictably, due to the physical nature of the game, many of the technological advancements in the design of football gear were driven by the need for safety. Eventually, as helmet designs evolved to more effectively and efficiently protect a player's head, facemasks were incorporated to extend protection to a player's face.

The modern day football facemask varies in design according to the user's personal taste as well as his position responsibilities on the field of play. Regardless of the specific design or style, a facemask will inevitably consist of a series of coated metal or plastic bars fashioned in such a way that the facemask can be attached to a helmet and protect a player's face to the maximum extent without overly impeding the player's field of vision. Because facemasks are not solid in nature, however, even the most elaborate designs can't guarantee that a wearer won't experience turf, rain, or strategically placed fingers in his face during play.

After suffering an eye injury in 1984, Mark Mullaney of the Minnesota Vikings required protection that a facemask alone couldn't provide. In conjunction with the Vikings' team equipment manager, Dennis Ryan, Mullaney developed a solid, high impact, clear plastic shield that could be affixed to the back of his facemask. As a result, Mullaney created a device that offered an impenetrable barrier to foreign objects that could potentially pass through his facemask. Mullaney had created football's first solid face shield.

Almost 25 years later, many football players use a high impact protective shield fitted to the facemask. The reasons for a modern day player to use a shield are numerous and include not only the desire to protect himself from foreign objects capable of getting through the facemask, but also to provide a layer of defense against glare from the sun or bright stadium lights, create a window of focus during play, conceal eye direction from opposing players, or just plain look “cool.” Regardless of an individual player's motivation for wearing a face shield, shields have become commonplace at all levels of organized football when league regulations allow their use.

Despite the many benefits to players who choose to wear face shields, some leagues will not allow their use unless constructed of a clear material. The purpose of such stipulation is, ironically, to provide yet another protection to the player. In the event a player is injured on the field, it may be imperative that medics be able to see the player's eyes without having to remove his helmet. Therefore, “park & rec” leagues, high school football associations, individual college level programs, and many players of their own volition disallow the use of tinted or mirrored face shields.

Players in just about any league can choose to wear clear shields. Without the use of a tinted or mirrored version, however, a player just has to do without the glare protection or aesthetically pleasing look that a clear shield will not provide. Therefore, what is needed in the art is a new face shield or visor shield that can be affixed to a football helmet and facemask such that it does not obstruct the wearer's forward looking field of vision, provides some relief against light glare, provides protection to the player and does not prevent a doctor or medic from examining an injured player.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An open view facemask visor is an apparatus composed of a high impact resistive material any portion of which is capable of filtering or reflecting light. The visor is formed by shaping a nominally thick sample of the impact resistive material such that the finished product can be affixed either over or under a given helmet facemask design. Whether by providing a clear section or an open section in the visor, proper positioning of the visor shield on the facemask will not obstruct one's ability to view the helmet wearer's eyes. The visor shield will, however, provide a degree of protection from light or debris entering from a lateral, downward, or upward angle.

One embodiment of the invention includes a helmet shell and a facemask that is attachable to the helmet shell. The facemask is constructed of multiple wires being interconnected in a mesh-like structure. The wires of the facemask include a posting wire and a support wire that are substantially parallel to each other and define at least one void or hole in the facemask. The posting wire and support wire are on substantially opposing sides of this void. In addition, this embodiment includes a visor that has a shield structure and two mounting flanges on substantially opposing sides of the shield structure. When the visor is snapped into position over the void, the mounting flanges exert pressure against the posting wire and support wire to frictionally hold the visor into position. In some embodiments, the flanges may be structured such that they are placed inside the void and apply pressure outwardly against the posting wire and support wire. In other embodiments, the flanges may be structured such that they are placed outside of the void and apply pressure inwardly against the posting wire and support wire. It will be appreciated that other wires, in addition to or in lieu of the posting wire and support wire may be used to secure the visor to the facemask.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of an open view facemask visor affixed to posting and reinforcement wires of a typical facemask.

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of the visor shield embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1 at the point of attachment to the facemask posting and reinforcement wires in the direction of the arrows labeled 2-2.

FIGS. 3A-C show alternative methods for attaching the open view visor to the facemask.

FIG. 4 is yet another embodiment of the visor that includes an interior mount for the face mask.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments and aspects of the present invention provide a solution to the above-described need in the art, as well as other needs in the art by providing the wearer of a helmet and facemask with an aesthetically pleasing barrier to direct light, glare, and foreign matter without obstructing the helmet wearer's forward looking field of vision or the ability of another person to view the helmet wearer's eyes.

One aspect or purpose of the present invention, beyond aesthetics, is to provide a degree of protection from light and debris without inhibiting another person from directly viewing the wearer's eyes. A non-limiting example of a scenario where an open view visor would be of benefit is in the case of a football player who has had a concussion on the field of play. To evaluate the condition of a football player who may have had a concussion, a medic must be able to view the player's eyes. If the player is wearing a helmet and mask combination fitted with a traditional full coverage tinted face shield, then the medic would have to remove the player's helmet in order to inspect the eyes. Removal of the helmet in such a situation could be detrimental to the player if a head or neck injury were present in addition to the supposed concussion. If the injured player, however, is wearing a helmet and mask combination fitted with an open view visor, then the medic would not have to remove the helmet in order to inspect the player's eyes.

An exemplary embodiment of an open view visor is shown in FIG. 1 of the drawings. In FIG. 1, the open view visor 110 can be seen fitted over and around the posting 120 and reinforcement wires 130 of a typical facemask design 100. The facemask 100 is shown proximate to an athletic helmet or helmet shell 190 to which the facemask 100 can be secured using various techniques known to those skilled in the art. The posting wire 120 is typically the uppermost wire in the facemask and is designed to fit parallel to the front curvature of a helmet in order to offer anchor points for brackets. The brackets (not shown) are fixed directly to the helmet and hold the posting wire some minimal distance away from the helmet surface. The reinforcement wire 130 extends forward of the posting wire 120 and runs parallel to, and below, the posting wire at a distance of roughly an inch in the illustrated embodiment (FIG. 2). The position of the reinforcement wire 130 relative to the posting wire 120 defines a plane directly above a helmet wearer's field of vision. An open view visor designed to work with such a facemask would fill that plane and provide a degree of protection to the helmet wearer from light or debris entering from above.

It should be appreciated that an open view visor is not limited to filling the plane defined by the posting and reinforcement wires on a typical facemask. Any visor design that could be fitted directly to the facemask, either inside or outside, without eliminating a direct view to the wearer's eyes is of an open view design. For example, extensions of the visor down the lateral portions of a facemask could offer extended protection from glare and debris without sacrificing an unobstructed view of the wearer's forward field of vision. Further, even a more traditional solid shield design could be an embodiment of the present invention if the shield consisted of a combination of tinted or mirrored sections in conjunction with a clear section through which the wearer's eyes could be readily viewed by another person.

The exemplary embodiment of the open view visor shown in the figures is held in place against the facemask by mechanical means inherent to the shape of the visor, i.e. the visor curves or “snaps” around the circumference of the posting and reinforcement wires. It should be appreciated, however, that an open view visor could be integral to the facemask itself or attached any number of ways including, but not limited to, brackets, screws, wires, glues, epoxies, magnets or any combination of fasteners. Further, it should be appreciated that an open view visor could be constructed from any number of materials including, but not limited to, polycarbonates, acetals, acrylics, resins, cellulosic plastics, phenolics, or rubbers.

More specifically, in one exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the open view visor could extend over a significant portion or even the entire face mask. In such an embodiment, the visor could be tinted in all areas except for the area directly in front of the wearer's eyes. This embodiment of the invention advantageously provides the maximum protection to the player without inhibiting one's ability to examine the eyes of an injured player. Alternatively, rather than tinting all of the open view visor except above the player's eyes, the open view visor could have a cut-away strip or openings over the player's eyes.

In yet another embodiment of the present invention, the open view visor may include two or more units that can be fastened or affixed to the visor. Such an embodiment of the invention would allow a player to customize the amount of protection provided without sacrificing the open view visor characteristics. For instance, the player could use only the portion of the open view visor as illustrated in FIG. 1 or, the player could include one or more additional components placed over other sections of the facemask 100 excluding the area direction over the player's eyes. For instance, if play is occurring while the sun is setting, when the player is facing down field in a first direction, the player may attach components over areas 140 and 150. If the player reverses direction, such as at half time, then the player could remove the components over areas 140 and 150 and place them on the opposite side of the face mask 100.

In another embodiment, the open view visor may be provided in components sized to fit each opening in the face mask individually or, may be structured so as to cover multiple openings. In the componentized embodiment, an open view visor component can be constructed for each opening in the facemask where each opening is defined by a border consisting of the coated wiring of the facemask 100. Thus, for facemasks that vary in design, components can be manufactured for each area of each facemask design. Advantageously, between various facemask designs some of the sizes and shapes of the various areas will be the same. This helps to reduce the number of different components that are required. In the multiple opening embodiment, the open view visor can be constructed to cover one or more openings in common configurations. For instance, it is anticipated that the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1 will be the most popular configuration. As such, the embodiment of the open view visor 110 illustrated in FIG. 1 is an example of a multiple opening embodiment. However, it should be appreciated that the componentized embodiment may also be used to achieve the configuration illustrated in FIG. 1 by having one component to fit over opening 160 and another component to fit over opening 170. Further, because opening 160 and 170 will typically be identical in size and shape, one style of the open view visor component could be used for each opening.

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of the visor shield embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1 at the point of attachment to the facemask posting and reinforcement wires in the direction of the arrows labeled 2-2. In the illustrated embodiment, the open view visor fits over the posting wire 120 and the reinforcement wire 130 in a snap-on configuration mounted onto the front of the facemask 100. The material used for such an embodiment allows for the visor shield to be deformed enough to allow the visor shield to snap into place and then be held into position when the visor shield reforms to its natural shape. An advantage of this embodiment of the invention is that the open view visor could be easily removed from the visor if necessary by a doctor or medic. However, it should be appreciated that the open view visor could also be mounted in a snap-on configuration from the back-side for the facemask 100. Further, the open view visor may be mounted to the visor 100 in a more permanent type arrangement. For instance, the open view visor may be affixed to the helmet by a screw, adhesive or some other mechanism and in addition, be attached to the visor.

One advantage of the various removable structures and/or embodiment described herein is that, because the visor can be easily removed, some of the restrictions placed on the size and placement of the visor can be lifted. In other embodiments, the visor may cover more area of the facemask thereby providing further protection. With removable embodiments, this structure may be allowable in that an examining physician or medic could easily remove the visor to gain access to a player's eyes. In addition, embodiments of the invention may also employ other techniques to provide shielding from light and debris while covering more portions of the facemask. For instance, in one embodiment, tinted material may be used to construct the visor but, at an area positioned over the eyes of a wearer, the amount of tinting can be greatly reduced or eliminated to allow direct viewing of the eyes. In another embodiment, the visor may simply define a cut-out area or window that provides direct viewing of the eyes.

FIGS. 3A-C show alternative methods for attaching the open view visor to the facemask. In the illustrated embodiment, a wire 320 includes a groove 330 extending along the surface of the wire 320. The groove 330 is sized so as to receive an edge of the open view visor. As best seen in FIG. 3B, the open view visor 340 can be slid or snapped into opposing grooves 330A and 330B of wires 320A and 320B respectively. As best seen in FIG. 3C, the open visor 345 could also be attached to the facemask using grooves 335A and 335B in wires 325A and 325B respectively by including a flange or tab that can be snapped into the groove and hold the open view visor 345 in position. It should be appreciated that in any of the illustrated or described embodiments, the use of an adhesive could also be employed to further secure the open view visor into position. In addition, vibration welding or simply welding the pieces together by melting the materials together could also be utilized.

FIG. 4 is yet another embodiment of the visor that includes an interior mount for the face mask. In this embodiment, a face mask defines a void or hole by at least two wires 435A and 425B that are in substantially opposing positions, or on nearly opposite sides of the void 420. The visor 445 includes a visor surface or structure portion 452 and two opposing mounting sleeves 454A and 454B. The visor can be constructed of a material that is rigid enough to maintain or hold its shape but malleable enough to allow the visor 445 to be deformed and snapped into the void 420 defined by the wires of the face mask, in this case wires 425A and 425B. By having the sleeves on substantially opposing sides of the visor structure, they can hold the visor between the substantially opposing wires of the facemask.

Advantageously, the visor can also be popped out by placing fingers through another portion of the face mask and pushing the visor up and out. The sleeves 454A and 454B then slide out from between the wires 425A and 425B. Alternatively, the visor may define holes within the surface through which a party my stick their fingers for holding and removing the visor structure.

Another technique to attach the open view visor to the face plate is to include a series of tabs that are integral to the open view visor and that wrap around the wire and back onto the open view visor. A screw, a short bolt and nut, a rivet or other similar fastener could then be used to penetrate through the open view visor and the tab to secure the open view visor onto the wire and into position. Alternatively, the tabs could be constructed of a material that is sufficiently resilient to securely hold the open view visor into position without requiring a fastener. In another embodiment, the open view visor could simply be screwed or glued to the interior side or the exterior side of the wire.

In yet another embodiment, the open view visor may include multiple holes situated near the perimeter of the open view visor. The use of a string, or ties may then be used to secure the open view visor to the wire. Similarly, the wire may include a series of holes that coincide with the holes in the open view visor and the string, or tie or other mechanism (including rivets and bolts) could be used to extend through the holes in the open view visor and through the corresponding holes in the wire. In another embodiment, the posting wire and reinforcement wire may include small posts or round tabs that coincide with holes in the visor. The holes can be pressed over the tabs and the tabs can be melted or flattened so as to create a rivet-type structure to hold the visor in place.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that other methods to attach the open view visor can be utilized and the present invention is not limited to any particular method of attaching the open view visor, although the methods described herein may, in and of themselves, be considered as novel aspects of the present invention.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the open view visor may be integrally formed into the face mask rather than be a separate, attachable component.

It will be appreciated that the open view visor, in any of the described embodiments, could be constructed of a clear, translucent or even opaque material. Further, the open view visor could be constructed of polarized or non-polarized material. Furthermore, it will be appreciated that the material used to fabricate the open view visor may include photochromic dyes, or other technology used to provide automatically adjustable tinting. For example, the photochromic dyes activate or darken when exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight. In the absence or in a reduced ultraviolet light setting, the dyes lighten. Advantageously, this aspect of the present invention can be used to provide a view of a wearer's eyes even if the visor covers the eyes. For instance, the entire visor, or at least a portion of the visor directly over the wearer's eyes can be constructed with the photchromic dye. During play, this portion of the visor would be darkened to eliminate glare. If the wearer is injured, ultraviolet light can be blocked to allow the player's eyes to be examined.

Although the present invention has been described in reference to a facemask for a football helmet, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the various aspects and embodiments of the present invention may also be applied to other applications including the following non-limiting examples: lacrosse helmet, baseball catcher facemask, fencing helmets, hockey helmets and goalie facemasks, etc.

In the various embodiments of the present invention, the open view visor may be extruded, molded, or formed by melting or heating the material into a formable state and then shaping the material to the desired shape.

Various aspects, features and characteristics of the present invention have been described. Not all of the aspects, features or characteristics are required for each and every embodiment of the present invention. However, it will be appreciated that the various aspects, features, characteristics and combinations thereof may be considered novel in and of themselves.