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United States Patent Application 20170189786
Kind Code A1
Riggs; Scott July 6, 2017

HELMET FOR PREVENTING CONCUSSIONS

Abstract

A sports helmet for preventing or minimizing head concussions comprising an outer shell and a gas bladder inflated with a gas and secured interiorly of the shell. A pressure relief valve associated with the gas bladder exhausts gas contained in the gas bladder in response to a threshold pressure being realized in the gas bladder in response to the head of the person wearing the sports helmet experiencing an impact.


Inventors: Riggs; Scott; (Goldsboro, NC)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Riggs; Scott

Goldsboro

NC

US
Family ID: 1000002166724
Appl. No.: 15/252785
Filed: August 31, 2016


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62273526Dec 31, 2015

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A63B 71/081 20130101; A63B 2225/62 20130101; A42B 3/125 20130101; A42B 3/122 20130101
International Class: A63B 71/08 20060101 A63B071/08; A42B 3/12 20060101 A42B003/12

Claims



1. A sports helmet for preventing or minimizing head concussions due to the head of the person wearing the sports helmet experiencing an impact, the sports helmet comprising: an outer shell; an gas bladder inflated with a gas and secured interiorly of the shell and disposed between the head of the person and the outer shell; and a pressure relief valve associated with the gas bladder for exhausting gas contained within the gas bladder in response to a threshold pressure within the gas bladder being exceeded due to the head of the person wearing the helmet experiencing an impact.

2. The sports helmet of claim 1 wherein the gas bladder includes a series of spaced apart fingers that wrap around the head of the person wearing the sports helmet.

3. The sports helmet of claim 2 wherein the outer shell includes a crown area, a front area, a back area, and two side areas; and wherein the series of spaced apart fingers extend adjacent the crown area, front and back areas, and the side areas.

4. The sports helmet of claim 2 further including a series of resilient pads that are secured and disposed between the respective fingers that form the gas bladder.

5. The sports helmet of claim 4 wherein each of the fingers includes an inner surface for engaging the head of the person wearing the helmet; and wherein the resilient pads are spaced outwardly from the inner surfaces of the fingers such that in the absence of an impact, the fingers engage the head of the person wearing the sports helmet while the resilient pads are spaced outwardly from the person's head and do not engage the person's head.

6. The sports helmet of claim 1 wherein the gas bladder includes an inlet valve for inflating the gas bladder with the gas.

7. The sports helmet of claim 1 wherein the sports helmet includes an indicator operatively connected to the pressure relief valve for emitting a signal in response to the actuation of the pressure relief valve.

8. The sports helmet of claim 1 wherein the pressure relief valve is configured to automatically close after actuation so as to prevent the gas bladder from being totally or substantially totally deflated.

9. The sports helmet of claim 1 wherein the shell includes a crown area, a front area, a back area, and two side areas, and wherein the gas bladder includes a central portion disposed adjacent the crown and wherein the gas bladder further includes a plurality of fingers that radiate from the central portion of the gas bladder and extend downwardly and outwardly about the interior of the sports helmet such that the fingers lie adjacent the front, back and side areas of the outer shell.

10. A method of preventing or minimizing head concussions with a sports helmet having a main gas bladder and an expansion chamber comprising: in response to a person wearing the sports helmet experiencing a head impact, causing the head of the person wearing the helmet to directly or indirectly increase the pressure in the main gas bladder and when the pressure in the main gas bladder exceeds a first threshold pressure directing at least some of the gas from the main gas bladder to the expansion chamber thereby dampening the impact of the head of the person wearing the sports helmet; and wherein directing at least some of the gas from the main gas bladder to the expansion chamber increases the pressure in the expansion chamber and wherein when the pressure increase in the expansion chamber exceeds a second threshold pressure directing at least some of the gas in the expansion chamber back to the main gas bladder to recharge the main gas bladder.

11. The method of claim 10 wherein there is provided a first pressure relief valve operatively connected between the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber for selectively permitting gas to flow from the main gas bladder to the expansion chamber; and wherein there is a second pressure relief valve operatively connected between the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber for selectively permitting gas to flow from the expansion chamber to the main gas bladder to recharge the main gas bladder.

12. The method of claim 10 wherein both the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber are disposed inside the sports helmet.

13. A sports helmet for preventing or minimizing concussions comprising: an outer shell; a main gas bladder for holding gas disposed interiorly of the outer shell and positioned in the outer shell such that the main gas bladder is compressed in response to the head of a person wearing the sports helmet experiencing an impact; an expansion chamber for holding gas and communicatively connected to the main gas bladder; a first pressure relief valve operatively connected between the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber; said first pressure relief valve normally closed but configured to open in response to the head of a person wearing the sports helmet experiencing an impact and in response to the pressure in the main gas bladder exceeding a first threshold pressure; wherein when said first pressure relief valve assumes the open position, gas contained in the main gas bladder flows from the main gas bladder through the first pressure relief valve into the expansion chamber; a second pressure relief valve operatively connected between the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber; said second pressure relief valve being normally closed but configured to open in response to the pressure within the expansion chamber exceeding a second threshold pressure; and wherein when the pressure within the expansion chamber exceeds the second threshold pressure, the second pressure relief valve opens and permits gas in the expansion chamber to flow from the expansion chamber through the second pressure relief valve into the main gas bladder to recharge the main gas bladder.

14. The sports helmet of claim 13 wherein the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber form a closed loop system that enables gas to circulate back and forth between the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber.

15. The method of claim 14 including automatically recharging the main gas bladder after gas has been transferred from the main gas bladder to the expansion chamber.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. .sctn.119(e) from the following U.S. provisional application: Application Ser. No. 62/273,526 filed on Dec. 31, 2015. That application is incorporated in its entirety by reference herein.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to protective helmets and more particularly to helmets designed to prevent or minimize concussions and head injuries.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] In recent years, we have begun to learn the impact and long term health consequences of repetitive blows to the head. While concussions occur in a wide variety of activities and sports, it is the game of football that has in recent years brought this health concern to the forefront. Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries are suspected as a major cause of suicides after retirement, memory loss, and depression among football players. What is perhaps the reason that football has been singled out is the popularity of the game as it is enjoyed by Pop Warner kids, high school players, college players and professional players, and that one player over a playing career may experience many concussions. The cumulative effect has far reaching consequences.

[0004] To be sure, professional football, as well as college administrators, acknowledge the problem and rules are constantly being implemented to reduce the risk of concussions. Moreover, great strides have been made in improving the design of sport helmets of all types, including hockey, baseball, lacrosse and especially football helmets. There is no doubt that the modern football helmet is much safer than helmets manufactured decades ago.

[0005] But concussions are still occurring and with the speed and size of athletes today at all levels of sports, small and incremental changes in helmet design is not adequately addressing the problem.

[0006] Therefore, there is a need for a sports helmet, particularly a football helmet, that actually addresses the concussion problem. There is a need for a helmet that positively reacts to a concussion causing impact and dampens the impact to minimize head trauma and concussions.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] The present invention relates to a sports helmet that is designed to prevent or minimize concussions due to the head experiencing hard impacts. In a first embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a main gas bladder in the interior of the helmet. The main gas bladder extends around the skull and engages the skull during normal use. Provided in the main gas bladder is a pressure relief valve that is designed to release pressure from the main gas bladder once a threshold pressure is experienced in the main gas bladder. Thus, when a player wearing the helmet experiences an impact, the head will push against the main gas bladder which is again disposed between the skull and the shell of the helmet. This will increase the pressure within the main gas bladder. Once a threshold pressure is reached, the pressure relief valve is actuated and releases air from the main gas bladder. This will reduce the pressure in the main gas bladder and will effectively dampen the impact. By dampening the impact, the likelihood of a concussion is reduced.

[0008] In a second embodiment of the present invention, the main gas bladder is operatively associated with an inflatable expansion chamber. The idea here is to protect against quick successive blows or impacts to the head while providing a dampening effect in response to each blow or impact. In the case of this embodiment, there is a first pressure relief valve operatively connected between the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber. When the threshold pressure within the main gas bladder is exceeded, the first pressure relief valve opens and allows air to escape from the main gas bladder into the expansion chamber. This will again effectively reduce the pressure in the main gas bladder and dampen the force of the impact. This will also instantaneously result in an increase in pressure in the inflatable expansion chamber. The expansion chamber is provided with a second pressure relief valve that is communicatively connected between the expansion chamber and the main gas bladder. Thus, when the pressure increases in the expansion chamber and exceeds a threshold value, the second pressure relief valve opens and air is exhausted from the expansion chamber back into the main gas bladder. This effectively recharges the main gas bladder to its initial pressure setting and it is properly set now to dampen a succeeding concussion causing event. The time sequence here may be extremely short. It can be only a partial second between the time the first pressure relief valve opens and the time that the second pressure relief valve opens. The amount of time only needs to be sufficiently long to dampen the impact.

[0009] In addition, disclosed herein is a method for preventing or minimizing head concussions with a sports helmet. The sports helmet has a main gas bladder and an expansion chamber. In response to a person wearing the sports helmet experiencing a head impact, the method includes causing the head of the person wearing the helmet to directly or indirectly increase the pressure in the main gas bladder. When the pressure in the main gas bladder exceeds a first threshold pressure, the method entails directing at least some of the gas from the main gas bladder to the expansion chamber. This dampens the impact of the head of a person wearing the sports helmet. The method further includes directing at least some of the gas from the main gas bladder to the expansion chamber. This increases the pressure in the expansion chamber and when the pressure increase in the expansion chamber exceeds a second threshold pressure, the method includes directing at least some of the gas in the expansion chamber back to the main gas bladder to recharge the main gas bladder.

[0010] In one embodiment of the present invention, the sports helmet includes a main gas bladder disposed interiorly of the sports helmet and positioned in the sports helmet such that when the head of a person wearing the helmet experiences an impact, this causes the main gas bladder to be compressed. In addition, there is provided an expansion chamber. There is also provided a first pressure relief valve connected between the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber. There is also a second pressure relief valve operatively connected between the expansion chamber and the main gas bladder. Both of the pressure relief valves are normally closed. The first pressure relief valve is designed to open in response to the pressure in the main gas bladder exceeding a first threshold pressure. This enables air or gas to flow from the main gas bladder into the expansion chamber and this dampens the impact. As the gas moves from the main gas bladder through the first pressure relief valve into the expansion chamber, this causes the pressure in the expansion chamber to increase. Once the pressure within the expansion chamber exceeds a second threshold pressure, the second pressure relief valve opens and permits gas in the expansion chamber to pass through the second pressure relief valve back into the main gas bladder to recharge the main gas bladder.

[0011] In one embodiment, the second pressure relief valve can be timed so that the gas collected in the expansion chamber can be returned relatively quickly to the main gas bladder such that it is appropriately charged and prepared to dampen the next impact.

[0012] Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent and obvious from a study of the following description and the accompanying drawings which are merely illustrative of such invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a football helmet that includes the present invention.

[0014] FIG. 2 is a bottom plan view of the football helmet showing the main gas bladder secured therein.

[0015] FIG. 3 is a view taken along the lines III-III of FIG. 1.

[0016] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a football helmet showing an alternative design for the present invention and particularly showing a main gas bladder operatively associated with an expansion chamber.

[0017] FIG. 5 is a schematic illustration showing the basic operating principles of the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber.

[0018] FIG. 6 is a view taken through the line VI-VI of FIG. 4.

DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

[0019] With further reference to the drawings, a football helmet is shown therein and indicated generally by the numeral 10. Although a football helmet is shown in the drawings, it is appreciated that the present invention is suitable for use in conjunction with any type of protective helmet. For example, the present invention is useful in other sports such as hockey and lacrosse and can be employed again in any type of protective helmet where the person wearing the helmet is subjected to potential head trauma or impacts to the head. Details of the helmet 10 are not dealt with herein because such is not per se material to the present invention. The focus of the present invention is on the structure and function of the internal system employed in the helmet for reducing concussions and head injury.

[0020] In any event, the football helmet 10 shown in FIG. 1 includes an outer shell 12. The outer shell can be constructed of various suitable materials including hard plastic and polymer materials. As seen in FIG. 1, the outer shell includes a crown area, a front area, a back area, and two side areas.

[0021] Secured within the interior of the helmet 10 is a main inflatable gas bladder indicated generally by the numeral 20. As used herein, the term "gas bladder" means a gas bladder or a bladder for holding gas. The main gas bladder 20 can assume various designs and configurations. The configuration shown in FIG. 1 is simply one exemplary design. In this case, the main gas bladder includes a series of spaced apart fingers or cells 20A. As seen in FIG. 1, the fingers 20A of the main gas bladder wrap around the head. The fingers extend over the crown and down the sides and also along the front and back areas of the head. The fingers 20A are designed to fit various size heads and are designed to be firmly secured inside the helmet by various suitable means. In one embodiment, there is provided a series of resilient pads 24 (not shown in FIG. 1) that are secured and disposed between the respective fingers 20A. See FIG. 3, for example. These resilient pads 24 are designed to be spaced at least slightly outward from the inside of the main gas bladder 20. That is, the concept here is for the fingers 20A of the main gas bladder 20 to engage the head and confine the head within the confines of the fingers, while the resilient pads 24 are spaced slightly outwardly therefrom such that, in normal use, they do not directly engage the head of the person wearing the helmet.

[0022] The main gas bladder 20 includes an inlet valve 22. The purpose of the inlet valve 22 is to provide a means for inflating the main gas bladder 20 with air or another gas or fluid. By selectively inflating the main gas bladder 20, it can be made to properly fit a person's head. In one embodiment, the main gas bladder 20 is inflated so that it firmly wraps around the head and the head is fully contained within the confines of the fingers or cells 20A. This will result in a fit pressure that will be particularly suited for a particular person.

[0023] The main gas bladder 20 is also provided with a pressure relief valve 26. The pressure relief valve 26 can be placed at various locations on the helmet 10. Pressure relief valve 26 is set to release or actuate when a threshold pressure is reached or exceeded within the main gas bladder 20. The threshold value can vary according to circumstances and conditions and can be easily established by testing. The concept is for the pressure relief valve 26 to actuate and reduce the pressure within the main gas bladder 20 when the person wearing the helmet 10 experiences an impact that has even the potential to cause a head injury or a concussion. Thus, the threshold pressure may vary according to the level of play or even to the position being played by the player. Again, there may be a wide variety of threshold values that would be suitable for various players playing under various circumstances and conditions.

[0024] But in any event, when there is an impact and the threshold pressure is reached or exceeded, then the pressure relief valve 26 is actuated. Once actuated, air is exhausted from the main gas bladder through the pressure relief valve 26. This has the effect of reducing the pressure within the main gas bladder 20. Once air or gas has been exhausted from the main gas bladder and the pressure therein reduced, this enables the head of the person wearing the helmet to experience limited movement with respect to the helmet. The main gas bladder 20 will still remain at least partially inflated but the reduction in pressure will effectively dampen the impact and avoid a situation where the head is traumatized by an abrupt impact without any ability to move and cause the energy associated with the impact to be absorbed or dissipated.

[0025] The pressure relief valve 26 is also provided with an indicator such as a light emitting diode or some other signally device. This device is actuated each time the pressure relief valve 26 is actuated. Various types of signaling devices can be used. This will enable coaches and others observing the play to know that there has occurred a potentially concussion causing event with respect to the person wearing the helmet.

[0026] In the case of this embodiment, once the pressure relief valve is actuated, it should be appreciated that the pressure relief valve can be designed to automatically close when the excess pressure has been removed from the main gas bladder. This will prevent the main gas bladder 20 from being totally or overly deflated. The idea or concept here is to provide sufficient space in response to an impact in order to dampen the impact.

[0027] Turning to FIG. 4, an alternative embodiment of the present invention is shown. Here the main gas bladder 20 is operatively associated with an expansion chamber 30. Expansion chamber 30 is like the main gas bladder 20 inasmuch as it is an inflatable bladder. Still, the main gas bladder 20 is as shown in FIG. 1 and is designed to engage the head of the person wearing the helmet 10. The expansion chamber 30 can be spaced outwardly from the head. In one embodiment, the expansion chamber 30 can be provided in the form of cells which are disposed outwardly of the main gas bladder 20 or can be disposed generally between the fingers or cells 20A. See FIG. 4. Note that the fingers or cells of the expansion chamber radiate from the crown area downwardly along the front, back and sides of the head. This is simply one example of how the expansion chamber 30 can be integrated into the helmet 12. As illustrated in FIG. 5, there is a first pressure relief valve 32 operatively connected between the main gas bladder 20 and the expansion chamber 30. The function of the first pressure relief valve 32 is to direct excess air or gas from the main gas bladder 20 into the expansion chamber 30. There is also provided a second pressure relief valve 34 operatively interconnected between the expansion chamber 30 and the main gas bladder 20. In this case, the second pressure relief valve 34 is designed to direct air or gas back from the expansion chamber 30 into the main gas bladder 20 after an impact event. Thus, the overall function of the expansion chamber 30 is to relieve pressure from the main gas bladder 20 in response to there being an impact event and to recharge the main gas bladder after the impact event such that the main gas bladder stands ready to deal with a quickly succeeding impact.

[0028] In discussing this embodiment, the valves 32 and 34 are referred to as pressure relief valves. However, it is understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art that various types of control valves and control mechanisms can be employed for controlling and selectively circulating the air or pressure back and forth between the main gas bladder 20 and the expansion chamber 30.

[0029] In use, when there is an impact event, the player's head exerts a force against the fingers 20A of the main gas bladder 20. This increases the pressure therein and when the threshold pressure is met or exceeded, the first pressure relief valve 32 opens. Air or gas is exhausted from the main gas bladder 20 into the expansion chamber 30. This reduces the pressure within the main gas bladder 20 and dampens the impact to the head of the person wearing the helmet 10. When the air or gas is exhausted from the main gas bladder 20 into the expansion chamber 30, this increases the pressure within the expansion chamber 30. This will result in a threshold pressure in the expansion chamber 30 being exceeded and this will cause the second pressure relief valve 34 to be actuated, allowing the expansion chamber 30 to force air or gas therefrom through the second pressure relief valve into the main gas bladder 20. This effectively recharges the main gas bladder back to its initial pressure setting.

[0030] The sequential actuation of the two pressure relief valves 32 and 34 occur very quickly. It can be a matter of a fraction of a second. The delay only needs to be so long as to dampen the impact to the person's head. If required, the second pressure relief valve 34 could include a delay to make sure that recharging the main gas bladder 20 does not interfere with the dampening of the impact to the head. But generally these impacts occur so fast that the time required for dampening the impact is only a fraction of a second.

[0031] Therefore, it is appreciated that the main gas bladder 20 should be placed inside the helmet between the player's skull and the protective shell. The main gas bladder should be pumped up to a pressure designed to snuggly fit the skull and to hold the skull inside the helmet. This is referred to as the design pressure. As discussed above, the main bladder will have a pressure intake valve 22 such that it can be pumped up to the design pressure. The main gas bladder as discussed above includes the first pressure relief valve for exhausting air into the expansion chamber 30. As discussed, the relief valve will open upon a significant impact with the outer shell of the helmet and transfer pressure from the main gas bladder 20 to the expansion chamber 30. As the main bladder relieves its excess pressure, the expansion bladder will increase in pressure and, as a result of the increased pressure, open the second pressure relief valve that leads back into the main gas bladder 20. The transfer of pressure would reset the main gas bladder to its original pressure and keep the helmet ready for impact. The design pressure should be one that would stop the main bladder from ever contacting or collapsing its inner walls and, therefore, keeping the skull surrounded by a cushion under impact.

[0032] The expansion chamber 30 could be a depressurized bladder fully connected with the main gas bladder with only one opening that would function as a passageway for the transfer of pressure between the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber. The expansion chamber itself would only expand after an increase in pressure in the main gas bladder and as soon as a maximum pressure is reached, it would start to return the pressure back to the main gas bladder.

[0033] It should be noted that in one embodiment the main gas bladder 20 may not have direct contact with the skull or the shell of the helmet. The main gas bladder could be interposed between other structures within the helmet and yet provide the same benefits. In one example, the main gas bladder could be disposed between layers in the helmet such as layers of foam or other resilient material. In addition, it should be noted that other fluids besides air can be used. That is, other forms of gas and even liquids can be used in the main gas bladder and the expansion chamber. In other embodiments, there may be more than one pressure relief valve or control valve for directing the fluid from the main gas bladder or from the expansion chamber. It should also be appreciated that the expansion chamber could lie outside of the helmet.

[0034] The present invention may, of course, be carried out in other ways than those specifically set forth herein without departing from essential characteristics of the invention. The present embodiments are to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, and all changes coming within the meaning and equivalency range of the appended claims are intended to be embraced therein.

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