HARDY, Jonathan James Ean (88 Crown Heights, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 7TY, GB)
1 . Sports helmet having a domed shell and a forward peak each presenting a topside and an underside said sports helmet comprising a mounting, at each lateral side of said domed shell, capable of receiving and supporting a face guard, said sports helmet being configured to co-operate with a said face-guard for protecting the face of a wearer, wherein said peak comprises a proximal, rigid peak portion which is fixedly connected to the helmet main body and a distal, movable peak portion which is articulated on said proximal peak portion along a prescribed line of flexure, wherein said distal peak portion is capable of being deflected about said prescribed line of flexure when impacted by a moving projectile such as a ball, to thereby present a blocking surface against the progress of said projectile.
2. Sports helmet according to claim, wherein said articulation between said proximal and said distal peak portions is provided by means of a flexible hinge element which is joined to the proximal and distal peak portions.
3. Sports helmet according to claim 2, wherein said flexible hinge element comprises a line of flexible material in the form of a flexible seam interposed between and along opposing edges of said proximal and said distal peak portions.
4. Sports helmet according to any previous claim, wherein said peak comprises a preventer which retains said distal peak portion in an undeflected position said preventer being configured such that it releases said distal peak portion thereby allowing said distal peak portion to be deflected if said distal peak portion is acted on by a force in excess of a release threshold of said preventer.
5. Sports helmet according to any previous claim, wherein said movable peak portion comprises a distal main section and a proximal skirt section rigidly connected therewith, said distal main section being arranged distally of said line of flexure while said skirt section is arranged proximally of said line of flexure, such that when said distal section is pivoted upwards out of the plane of said peak, said skirt section is thereby pivoted downwards from the underside of said peak.
6. Sports helmet according to claim 5, wherein said skirt, in an undetected position of said distal peak portion, is received in a corresponding recess in said proximal peak portion. 7. Sports helmet according to claim 5, wherein a rearward transversely extending edge of said skirt abuts a corresponding shoulder of said recess.
8. Sports helmet according to claim 4 and any claim 5-7, wherein said preventer comprises one or more releasable fastenings positioned between a topside of said skirt and an underside of said proximal peak portion.
9. Sports helmet according to any previous claim, wherein the underside of said movable peak portion exhibits a high friction surface. 10. Sports helmet according to any previous claim, wherein said peak is detachable from said shell.
1 1 . Sports helmet according to any previous claim, wherein said line of flexure extends along a generally kinked or curvilinear path.
12. Sports helmet according to any previous claim, further comprising a face guard attached or attachable to said domed shell portion, said face guard comprising a rigid structure of protective struts capable of extending about a wearer's face; said helmet, when attached to said guard, having a viewing gap between said guard and said peak; wherein said viewing gap is defined between said peak and a generally transversely extending sill of said guard; and wherein said helmet shell and said guard are configured such that an incoming ball or projectile moving towards the head of a wearer approximately along a viewing axis through said viewing gap will be caused, upon contacting said sill, to deflect upwards, thereby deflecting said articulated distal peak section upwards.
13. Sports helmet according to claim 12, wherein said helmet shell, said guard and said movable peak portion are configured such that a said incoming projectile having contacted both said sill and said movable peak will tend to become blocked between said sill and said peak and will be prevented from passing through said viewing gap.
14. Sports helmet according to claim 12, wherein said sill comprises a first, lower, distal, transverse strut and a second, upper, proximal, transverse strut.
15. Sports helmet according to claim 14, wherein said first, lower, distal, transverse surface and second, upper proximal transverse surface both lie along a common viewing axis through said viewing gap and both face towards said viewing gap.
The present invention provides improved protective sports headgear. In particular, the present invention relates to protective helmets for use in ball type sports played with a projectile or a ball.
Players of sports such as cricket, baseball, hockey or racquet sports have for some time adopted the practice of wearing protective headgear in the form of a helmet, to protect against possible injury due to an impact to the head by a ball or puck travelling at speed. Many such helmets additionally comprise facial protection elements in the form of a visor or face guard supported on the helmet shell. Transparent visors offer the advantage of screen type protection in front of the eyes and continuous protection over the area of the visor. On the other hand, visors can create the disadvantage of giving some degree of visual impairment to a wearer looking out through the visor material owing to absorption or distortion of the light passing through, or due to accumulation of condensation, dirt or scratches on the visor surfaces. Where ball sports are concerned, including projectile type sports such as ice-hockey, the projectile or ball may be travelling at high speed and may require unusual levels of visual acuity from players, so that any impairment of vision can limit a player's effectiveness. In addition, where a visor covers a significant expanse in front of or around a wearer's face, the wearer may experience discomfort from being enclosed inside the visor, especially over a prolonged period of wear or activity.
A cage-type face guard mounted on a helmet overcomes many of the disadvantages associated with visors. These are generally made from a frame of relatively rigid wire elements extending around and/or in front of the face of a wearer. The cage is worn and fits spaced away from the face of a wearer and offers protection from impact of a projectile such as a ball or puck in flight while allowing a direct line of sight between a wearer and a projectile. The cage may typically be made from a rigid material such as steel, aluminium, titanium or alloys thereof. The cage may be made from longitudinal struts connected together into a frame. A wearer of a helmet comprising a face guard does not suffer the disadvantages associated with a visor, although struts of the face guard may to some extent obstruct the line of sight between a wearer's eyes and a ball. Where a ball is travelling at speed, even a momentary or partial obstruction of the line of sight can impair a player's performance.
Many attempts have been made to develop protective sports headgear. A sports helmet is described in US patent 4885806, comprising a peaked helmet shell with a shell portion on which a transparent visor is pivotally mounted so that a wearer may swivel the visor away from the face in order not to impair the wearer's vision of the ball at moments when its protective function is not needed. In US patent 6189156, there is disclosed a sports helmet with a face guard in the form of a cage structure wherein a visor element is provided to shield an open area of the cage immediately in front of a wearer's eyes. In US patent application 2007/0250990, a face guard mounted on a rigid helmet is height adjustable in order to adapt the position of the face guard to the line of sight of a wearer. WO 2009/090410 relates to a peaked cricket helmet with a face guard mounted to and depending from the helmet shell. The guard is in the form of a cage which extends around the sides and front of a wearer's face. A wearer's line of sight to a ball in play is unobstructed by any visor. In addition, the line of sight out through the guard is through an uninterrupted lateral gap extending transversely between the guard and the helmet peak. A similar peaked cricket helmet combined with a guard is described in AU 2002100570.
However, it has been found that the effectiveness helmets having a guard type element depends partly on the width across the transverse gap, or viewing aperture, between the lower extent of the helmet shell or peak and the guard, in relation to the size of the ball or projectile in play. Where the dimensions of the ball in play are less than the dimension across the viewing aperture, then there is a risk that the ball or projectile may pass through the gap with a possibility of injuring a wearer. Where the dimensions of the ball in play are close to or larger than the dimension across the viewing aperture, then there is a risk that the ball or projectile may force its way through the gap, by effectively prising apart the helmet from the guard, with a possibility of injuring a wearer. For this reason, face guards are provided mountable to helmets in such a way as to ensure a narrow enough gap to prevent passage of a ball or projectile. Nevertheless, in an attempt to gain an advantage in terms of improved line of sight to a ball, some wearers are inclined to set the gap between a guard and a helmet at a wider extent than is recommended by helmet or guard manufacturers and to a wider extent than would ensure that no ball or projectile could pass between guard and helmet.
A projectile such as a ball travelling at high speed may have significant energy, such that it can force its way through a restrictive gap, effectively increasing the size of the gap by prising it open. This may be the case even where the projectile has a greater diameter than the width across the viewing gap. In particular, a projectile such as a ball may gain a certain amount of leverage if it strikes the underside of a distal part of a rigid peak, allowing it to prise the base part of the rigid peak away from an element of a guard positioned at below eye level. In so doing, the projectile may thus prise apart the viewing gap to a sufficient extent to pass through it. This may not always be taken into account by wearers, some of whom may feel a sense of invulnerability when wearing a helmet with a guard. It is believed that in some cases, the added reassurance of protective headgear induces players to attempt riskier shots or manoeuvres than they would attempt in the absence of such protection. Some players may be less inclined to duck out of the path of a dangerous ball and may instead seek to play it, thereby potentially putting themselves at risk.
Summary of the invention
In order to provide improved protection, in accordance with the present invention, there is provided a sports helmet as defined in appended claim 1 . Further preferred features thereof are defined in subclaims 2-15.
The sports helmet of the invention is configured to co-operate with a face-guard. To that end, the helmet shell may incorporate a mounting which is capable of receiving and supporting a face guard when attached to the mounting which may be in the form of one or more appropriately located holes, bosses or engagement members such as brackets, pins or the like. These may typically be positioned at each side of the helmet shell. The helmet and peak have a topside and an underside which correspond to the respective top and undersides when the helmet is in normal use in position on the head of a wearer. All references to inside or outside surfaces of the helmet are likewise relative terms which are to be understood from the point of view of a wearer whose head naturally fits inside the helmet shell. Relative terms which denote inward or outward movement are also to be understood as moving either towards or away from the inside of the helmet, while relative positional terms such as proximal and distal are intended to define locations which lie toward or away from the origin of the helmet. The helmet origin may be considered to be a point approximately at the geometric centre of the helmet.
The helmet peak, which may provide some shade from sunlight, is fixedly connected to the helmet. Typically, the peak may form a brim about the forward lower part of the helmet main shell body. The helmet peak comprises a proximal, rigid peak portion which is connected to the helmet main body. The connection between the proximal part of the helmet peak and the helmet itself is a relatively rigid connection and may encompass constructions in which the proximal peak portion is integrally formed from the main structural material of the helmet protective shell. In other words, the peak may be integral with the helmet shell or it may be fixedly attached thereto. In some embodiments, the peak may be detachably fixed to the shell. Whichever particular construction type is employed, the proximal portion of the peak is not mobile in relation to the helmet when in use.
Connected to the proximal portion of the peak is a movable distal peak portion. The term "movable" in this context denotes that the distal peak portion is constructed so that it is displaceable in a predefined manner in response to a projectile impact. Specifically, the distal peak portion is articulated on said proximal peak portion along a prescribed line of flexure, such that it is capable of being deflected upwards when impacted with sufficient force by a moving ball or projectile. The upward deflection of the distal peak portion is a deflection about the line of flexure of the peak. In the absence of a force tending to deflect the distal portion of the peak away from its rest position, the proximal and distal peak portions remain in general alignment with each other, so that the peak performs the role of a conventional known type of helmet peak. Together, the proximal and distal portions of the peak extend outwardly from the helmet body to an extent which is typical of a peaked sports helmet.
The distal peak portion is articulated on the proximal peak portion. Accordingly, when an incoming projectile such as a puck or a ball strikes the distal part of the peak, the distal part of the peak is deflected and caused to flex away from its original position, thereby presenting an enlarged blocking surface against the progress of the projectile. In preferred embodiments, the movement of the distal peak portion is a pivoting movement about the line of flexure. Accordingly, the distal peak portion and its articulation will be so constructed that the distal peak portion flexes upwards upon impact with a projectile moving along an inbound trajectory. More particularly, the peak will be constructed so that the distal peak portion will flex upwards when impacted by a said projectile at the underside of the distal peak portion or at the underside of its forward edge. The distal portion of the peak, having pivoted through a certain angle in relation to the trajectory of the ball, and in relation to the shell portion of the helmet, presents a blocking surface against the further progress of the projectile such as a ball towards the head of a wearer. When the helmet is worn in conjunction with a cage type face-guard, the effect of the movable distal peak portion may be to deflect the ball/projectile away from its path. Where the distal peak portion is constructed to pivot upwards, it may jam the ball/projectile between the peak and the guard. In either case, the projectile will be prevented from striking and possibly injuring a wearer. This effect arises because the projectile gains no leverage over the base part of the peak because the peak tip yields upon its contact with the projectile, typically a ball. Hence, the projectile is unable to force its way through the viewing gap.
The articulation between the distal and proximal peak portions may be provided by any suitable means, in particular hinge means. These may include barrel and pivot hinge elements or other hinge elements. A hinge action may for example be provided by means of a flexible material joined to the proximal and distal peak portions. The flexible material may be any suitable flexible material preferably with a high degree of toughness such as polymeric compounds. Examples include rubber or rubber compounds such as vulcanised rubber compounds or tough synthetic rubber compounds. In one embodiment, a seam of flexible material may be interposed between opposing edges of the respective proximal and distal peak portions. In another embodiment, a resilient flexible material may be positioned so that it lies overlapping the respective edges of the proximal and distal portions of the peak, preferably on the upper surface thereof.
In an alternative embodiment, the articulation between the proximal and the distal peak portions is provided by means of a linear recess in the material of the peak. According to this embodiment, the main structural material of the peak is a single same material in both the distal and proximal portions. The linear recess constitutes a line along which the distal portion may pivot by virtue of the peak presenting a reduced cross section at the linear recess and thereby presenting a lower bending resistance along the linear recess.
The line of flexure which extends across the peak between the proximal, movable peak portion and the distal, fixed peak portion may extend in a substantially straight line or it may follow a slight curvilinear path. Alternatively, the line of flexure may describe two or more straight lines lightly angularly offset from each other defining a generally kinked path. The provision of a non-straight line of flexure in this way may assist in providing a degree of resistance to movement of the distal peak portion because it would require the peak to deform somewhat in order to move angularly about the line of flexure.
In order to maintain the distal peak portion in place during normal use of the helmet, there may be applied a biasing means which exerts a force tending to maintain the movable peak portion in alignment with the proximal peak portion. Any suitable biasing element may be used such as a resilient leaf spring fixed to a portion of the peak and extending cross the line of flexure.
Alternatively or additionally, in order to stabilise the distal portion of the peak, to prevent its displacement from its original position in the same plane as the proximal peak portion, the peak may comprise a preventer. This preventer may comprise one or more elements distributed transversely across the extent of the peak. In particular, the preventer may comprise one or more retaining members placed across the line of flexure, wherein the retaining members have a certain rigidity serving to maintain the orientation of the peak. Above a certain predetermined force threshold, the integrity or bending resistance of the one or more retaining members is overcome, allowing the distal peak portion to bend away from the plane of the proximal peak portion. In one embodiment, a preventer may comprise one or more rigid struts fixed in place on the peak across the line of flexure. Above a certain bending force applied to the distal portion of the peak, the preventer, in whichever form it is provided, may be caused to break, fracture, rupture or flex, thereafter allowing the distal peak portion to move out of the plane of the proximal peak portion. Other equivalent retaining elements may be employed. The force threshold at which the preventer releases the distal peak portion may be calibrated to correspond to that force which, when applied to the helmet peak would correspond to a minimum level of force in excess of the forces to which a helmet peak would be subjected during normal handling. An element of a preventer, such as a fastening, may be a single element which may rupture or flex when a release threshold is exceeded, or it may be a composite element which separates when its release threshold is breached,
In a further embodiment, the movable, distal portion of the peak may comprise a rearwardly extending skirt, i.e. a skirt which, in an undeflected position of the distal peak portion, extends proximally back generally adjacent the proximal peak section, proximally of the line of flexure across the peak. The fixed proximal peak portion thereby at least partially overlaps the movable distal portion. Specifically, the distal part of the proximal peak portion overlaps a proximal skirt section of the distal movable peak portion, in a rest position of the peak - i.e. in an undeflected position of the distal peak portion. When the forward tip of the distal peak portion is deflected upwards by a moving projectile, the rearwardly extending skirt will be caused to swing downwardly away from the underside of the proximal part of the peak into the path of an incoming projectile. In this way, the movable part of the peak will present a larger surface tending to block the progress of e.g. a ball in a direction towards the face of the wearer of the helmet.
In a further aspect, the skirt may, in an undeflected position of the distal peak portion - i.e. in its original position in the plane of the proximal peak portion - be received in a corresponding recessed portion of the proximal peak portion. The underside of the distal peak portion and its skirt may thereby lie substantially flush with the underside of the proximal peak portion. The presence of the skirt extending beneath and parallel to the underside of the proximal peak portion will tend to prevent a downward flexure of the peak because the skirt is thereby blocked from making any corresponding upward movement. Furthermore, in another aspect, the rearward (i.e. proximal) edge of the skirt may abut with and contact a shoulder of the recess in the proximal peak portion in which the skirt is received. This arrangement may lend additional rigidity to the composite peak of the invention, especially against flexing of the distal peak portion in a downward direction - i.e. against a downward movement of the distal peak portion in towards the viewing gap.
Alternatively or additionally, the helmet peak including a distal peak portion with a skirt portion may comprise a preventer in the form of one or more retaining members which prevent movement of the distal peak unless a force in excess of a minimum deflecting force is applied to it. Accordingly, a preventer may comprise one or more retaining members which may for example comprise a fastener such as an adhesive cement layer or a mechanical fastener such as a hook and loop type fastener an example of which is known as velcro. The preventer in association with a skirt of a distal peak portion may advantageously be provided between the topside of the skirt - i.e. the upper surface of the skirt and an underside of the proximal peak portion. Alternatively, the preventer may be positioned across a boundary between the undersides of a skirt portion and a proximal peak portion. Still alternatively or additionally, a preventer may be located across the topside of a peak across its line of flexure.
In a further optional aspect, the underside of the movable peak portion may exhibit a high friction surface. The friction surface may be in the form of a rough coating or an applied high friction material layer. In one embodiment, a high friction layer may be comprised of a polymer matrix coating material containing small particles such as fine abrasive material granules. In another embodiment, the high friction surface may be in the form of a material layer having a textured surface with a profile such as a ribbed or sawtooth cross-section. In another embodiment, the textured underlayer may exhibit bumps, recesses of any suitable shape and in any suitable number and density. In a still further aspect, the helmet peak may comprise a biasing element which exerts a force tending to maintain the movable peak portion in a common plane with the proximal peak portion. A biasing element may in particular be provided in the form of a leaf spring or coil spring across the line of flexure of the composite peak.
In order to provide the best protection for wearers of the helmet of the invention, it is envisaged, as discussed above, for the helmet to be used with a face guard, specifically, a face-guard in the form of a protective cage made from struts which are preferably metal struts. These may advantageously be made from lightweight materials or alloys in order to reduce the effect of inertia on an active wearer. Any suitable materials may be used for the struts provided they are relatively rigid and lightweight. A face guard may suitably be mounted on a helmet by means of a rigid attachment at the sides of the helmet shell so that the face guard is fixedly suspended from the helmet embracing the front and full sides of a wearer's face. The guard may thereby preferably be detachably secured to the helmet.
A face guard which may be particularly effective in connection with the present invention may extend around and thereby protect the front and sides of the face of wearer. In order to offer minimal intrusion into the field of vision of a wearer, the guard may in particular exhibit an open region at a forward transverse section thereof. The open region of the guard may, together with the lower forward edge of the helmet, underneath its peak, define a substantially unobstructed viewing aperture - also known as a viewing gap - allowing a wearer to see out from within the helmet. The viewing aperture may preferably extend substantially transversely encompassing the full lateral extent of the field of vision of a wearer. Any line of sight of a wearer looking out through the viewing aperture from within the helmet may be defined as a viewing axis. A viewing axis extends from either eye of a wearer outwardly through the viewing aperture.
The guard preferably comprises a generally transversely extending sill which defines both the upper limit of the front portion of the guard and also the lower limit of the viewing aperture between the guard and the helmet peak. This transverse, upper sill preferably exhibits enhanced rigidity, being made from components such as struts having an equivalent or greater rigidity than the rigidity of remaining struts in the face guard. The effect of the rigid transverse sill and of the unobstructed viewing aperture is to create an enhanced blocking mechanism against incoming projectiles when used in conjunction with the peaked helmet of the present invention. Specifically, the effect of the forward, transverse rigid sill is to deflect an incoming projectile such as a ball, travelling towards the viewing aperture, to be deflected upwards onto the distal peak portion, which is then pushed by the force of the projectile into its blocking position. The blocking position adopted by the obliquely oriented distal peak portion in its deflected position, may serve to deflect the projectile away from the helmet and wearer, or it may effectively block the progress of the projectile by trapping it between the transverse sill and the deflected helmet peak.
In order for the described mechanism to operate most effectively, the incoming ball or projectile may preferably have a diameter at least equivalent to or slightly greater than the approximate dimension across the viewing gap. In other words, the size of the viewing gap should be adapted to the size of the projectile which is in play. More particularly, the maximum extent of a viewing gap should correspond to a dimension which is marginally smaller than the minimum diameter of the projectile in play. However, for any given viewing gap and projectile combination, the helmet of the present invention, with its articulated distal peak portion provides improved protection against penetration of projectiles such as balls through the viewing gap. The use of the term "incoming" in connection with projectiles approaching the helmet is intended, in the present context, to denote projectiles which are approaching the helmet along or approximately an axis through the viewing gap, i.e. along a viewing axis.
In a particularly advantageous embodiment, the transverse sill of the face-guard which is attached to the helmet of the invention may comprise a first, lower, distal, transverse strut and a second, upper, proximal, transverse strut. Preferably, the respective struts extend over at least a forwardmost portion of the guard, in front of a face of a wearer during use and may exhibit a generally curved shape defining a protective bay around the face of a wearer. The presence of a forward lower transverse strut and an upper rearward strut is thought to enhance the effectiveness of the helmet of the invention. The presence of these at least two struts, comprised as parts of the transverse sill increases the extent to which incoming projectiles are deflected up onto the movable distal peak portion and thereby enhances the blocking effect of the mechanism of the helmet of the present invention. In addition, the presence of two or more struts at the transverse upper sill presents a greater barrier for absorbing kinetic energy of a projectile. Still further, the presence of two or more struts at the upper transverse sill creates a larger surface and thereby increases the friction applied to an incoming projectile so that the projectile is more readily trapped as the sill and peak between them act like catching jaws on a projectile. Preferably, at least two adjacent struts in a sill are separated along at least a part of the sill by a gap extending transversely between the struts. The distance across the gap may be a substantially constant between parallel or near-parallel struts or it may be a variable gap. In one aspect, a gap between two struts may have a maximum extent at a forwardmost point along a sill and may progressively decrease towards the sides of a sill and/or towards a rear sill region. A gap between adjacent struts at the forwardmost part of the sill may be of the order of at least 2mm across. Preferably that gap is at least 5mm across. In general it may be preferred for this gap to be no more than 25mm across at its widest extent. The gap may narrow gradually towards the sides and rear of the guard and may become zero. The presence of a gap between adjacent struts in the guard sill is thought to enhance the friction effect of the guard on a projectile and thereby to improve energy dissipation, deflection of the projectile and robustness of the sill.
In a further advantageous embodiment, a first, lower, distal, transverse strut and a second, upper proximal transverse strut both lie along a viewing axis through said viewing gap. A wearer of the helmet with a guard having this feature effectively perceive only the most proximal of these first and second transverse struts, because the more distal of the two struts will be obscured by the more proximal strut. As such, the sill provides added protection without additionally obstructing a wearer's vision.
The invention and its various advantages will be better understood with reference to the accompanying drawings which represent non-limiting examples of some features of the present invention. The illustrations are figurative and not to scale. They illustrate the following:
Fig.1 A top perspective view of a peaked helmet of the present invention Figs.2a-2d Some plan views of embodiments of an articulated helmet peak according to the invention
Figs. 3a-3f Some cross sectional illustrations of articulation means and peak configurations according to the present invention
Figs. 4a-b A general view of a combined helmet and guard according to the present invention
Fig. 5a A side view of a combined helmet and guard of the present invention in use
Fig. 5b A side view of a combined helmet and guard of the present invention in use and showing a blocked incoming projectile
A peaked helmet 1 according to the invention is shown figuratively in Fig. 1 , from which it can be seen that the helmet in the present example has the general appearance of a baseball cricket batsman's helmet. The helmet has a domed shell 4 and a forwardly projecting peak 3. It should be noted that the helmet and its composite peak as illustrated show only structural elements. It is usual to provide helmets with additional outer layers such as coatings of paint, varnish or fabrics. Outer layers and finishes are not represented in these drawings. In practice, outer layers may obscure the structural elements which are represented in the accompanying drawings. The shell 4 is made of a rigid protective material. Also the peak 3 may suitably be made from a rigid protective material and may in particular be made from a same material as the shell. As mentioned, both the shell 4 and the peak 3 may suitably be coated with fabric or outer films or both. A pair of mounts 12 is provided on each lateral side of the helmet 1 , each of which is associated with a pin 12. The mounts and pins 12, 14 constitute bolt type attachment means for a guard (not shown in Fig. 1 ). Many suitable alternative guard attachment means may readily be envisaged and are not illustrated. A straight line of flexure 8 is visible across the peak 3. The line of flexure 8 divides a generally fixed proximal peak portion 10 from a movable distal peak portion 9. The peak 3 may be integral with the shell 4 or it may be separable therefrom and fixedly (i.e. rigidly) attachable thereto. The fixed proximal peak portion 3 is intended to be immovable in relation to the helmet shell 4 during use. That is to say, the fixed part of the peak 10, when in position on the shell, cannot normally be moved in relation to the shell 4 - at least no more than its own resilience allows. In contrast, the distal portion of the peak 9 is configured to move about the line of flexure 8 when it is pushed or impacted in an upward direction (as indicated in Fig. 1 by the directional arrow 5, which denotes an upward direction in relation to the helmet). In some embodiments (not claimed), the movable distal peak portion may be movable by being collapsible, presenting an expanded cross section as it progressively collapses towards the line of flexure 8 and the fixed proximal peak portion 10.
The distal peak portion 9, when configured as a pivotable element, may be prevented from pivoting loosely about the line of flexure 8. During normal use, the distal peak portion 9 forms a stable continuation of the fixed, proximal peak portion 10. In order to maintain the distal peak portion 9 in an undeflected position, biasing means (not shown) such as a leaf spring, a coil spring or a layer of resilient material may appropriately be incorporated into the peak 3 in order to stabilise the distal portion 9 against movement. The composite peak of the helmet according to the invention is intended to handle and function in the same way as a conventional helmet peak under normal circumstances. As such, the distal peak portion 9 may be prevented from moving loosely in relation to the proximal peak portion 10 by the provision of biasing means and/or by incorporating a preventer as illustrated in Fig. 2a, in which two restraining members are shown in the form of breakable struts 19 positioned fixed across the line of flexure 8. Upon application of a force tending to deflect the distal peak portion 9, which force is such that it exceeds the release threshold of the struts 19, the preventer will allow movement of the distal peak portion 9. The release threshold of the struts 19 is exceeded when the struts yield to the bending force applied to the distal portion of the peak 3. The strength of the struts 19 and the number of struts 19 can be selected according to the desired degree of resistance to bending which is required. In aspects of the invention, the struts 19 may be replaced in position on the peak 3 in case they are broken, i.e. following auctioning of the safety mechanism of the peaked helmet 1 of the invention. In a further aspect of the invention, the composite peak 3 may be removed from the helmet 1 and exchanged in case it requires replacement - e.g. in case the peak 3 becomes damaged after an impact with a projectile or otherwise during use.
In fig. 2a, the hinge element is provided by a seam 33 of flexible material interposed between the opposing edge faces of the respective proximal 10 and distal 9 peak portions. Fig. 2a shows an alternative arrangement of a line of flexure 8 which in the case illustrated extends along a slightly curvilinear path. This arrangement lends additional stability to the distal peak portion 10, maintaining it in general alignment with the proximal peak portion 10 unless a force sufficient to displace it is applied. A similar effect can be achieved by an alternative arrangement as shown in Fig. 2b in which the line of flexure 8 is comprised of two straight lines 22, 23 offset in relation to each other and defining an obtuse angle where they join. The hingeing elements 25 are shown by way of example in the form of barrel and pivot hinges 25 arranged across the line of flexure 8, and connected to both the distal peak portion 9 and the proximal peak portion 10. The distal peak portion 9 remains stable in alignment with the proximal peak portion 10 because of the kinked line of flexure 8. Only when a force is applied, sufficient to overcome the resistance to movement due to the kinked line of flexure, will the distal portion 9 be pivoted out of alignment with the fixed peak portion 10. For those embodiments utilising a non-linear line of flexure 8, the material of the peak itself may deform to some extent in order to allow the distal portion 9 to pivot away from its alignment with the proximal portion 1 . Alternatively, the line of flexure 8 shown in Fig. 2a or 2b can be straight lines.
In Fig. 2c, there is shown an embodiment in which the distal peak portion 9 additionally comprises a rearwardly extending skirt 29 which pivots downwards when the forward tip of the distal potion 9 is caused to pivot upwards. The skirt 29 increases the blocking effect of the movable distal peak portion 9 on a projectile which impacts it. In alternative embodiments, the skirt 29 may be continuous and may lie underneath the proximal peak portion 10.
Fig. 2d shows a further exemplary embodiment in which the hinge element across the line of flexure 8 is a strip 31 of flexible resilient material which overlies the top surface of the peak 3 and significantly overlaps both the proximal 10 and distal 9 peak portions to an extent sufficient to allow a durable bond between the strip 31 and each of the elements of the peak along each side of the line of flexure 8. In an alternative embodiment (not shown) the hinge effect may be provided by means of a line of scoring across the peak 3, thereby defining both the line of flexure and the articulation means.
Fig. 3a shows a cross section view of a simple hinge construction according to the invention in which a seam 33 of a flexible material is interposed between opposing edges of the proximal and distal peak portions 10, 9. A layer of stabilising material in the form of a thin cover sheet 26 may optionally be applied to one or both outer surfaces of the flexible seam 33 also extending at least partly over the top and/or bottom surfaces of the proximal and distal portions of the peak 3. A biasing member or preventer (not shown) may be incorporated in this or any construction in order to further stabilise the composite peak 3 in its generally planar configuration. The stiffness of any biasing member should be sufficient to stabilise the peak 3 without wholly impeding the displacement of the distal peak portion 9 in case it should be impacted with any significant force. In the present context, an example of a significant force is an impact force of a projectile which would be enough to enable the projectile to make progress towards the face of a wearer and to cause injury in case it should make contact with a wearer.
In the present context of a seam material, the term "flexible material" is intended to designate a material for a seam 33, which is significantly less rigid than the material of the protective shell 4 and of the peak 3, and which is elastically deformable to an extent which allows the distal peak portion 9 to bend through at least a 40 degree angle from the plane of the fixed peak portion 10. More preferably, the flexible material of the hinge is elastically deformable to an extent which allows the distal peak portion 9 to bend through at least a 45 degree or 50 degree or 55 degree angle from the plane of the fixed peak portion 10. The flexible material of the hinge element seam 33 should regain its original shape after elastic deformation allowing it to bend out of the plane of the fixed peak portion 10. In Fig. 3b, the hinge member is shown formed by a barrel 40 and pivot 39 type hinge which is integrated into the material of the distal and proximal peak portions 9, 10. A biasing means (not shown) possibly in the form of a coil spring aligned along the axis of flexure 8 may be incorporated into the hinge shown in Fig. 3b in order to stabilise the distal peak portion 9 in alignment with the fixed, proximal peak portion 10. Alternatively or additionally, a preventer (not shown) may be included in the peak 3. In Fig. 3c, a strip 31 of a flexible resilient material is applied along the line of flexure, straddling it on both sides and fixed to both the distal 9 and proximal 10 portions of the helmet peak 3. The material of the strip 31 is elastically deformable to allow the distal portion 9 to bend out of the plane of the proximal peak portion when subject to a sufficient force. The material of the strip 31 may nevertheless be sufficiently resilient to prevent the distal peak portion 9 from moving during normal use of the helmet, i.e. during a use which does not involve a significant force being applied to the peak 3. Also shown in Fig. 3c is a high friction coating 41 which may in particular be a paint comprising fine particles or any other suitable high friction coating. The effect of the coating 41 is to increase the blocking effect of the distal peak potion 9 on a projectile which impacts it. An alternative high friction layer is illustrated by way of example in Fig. 3f.
Fig. 3d shows a still further alternative embodiment wherein the distal peak portion 9 further comprises a rigid skirt 29 applied to its underside and extending rearwardly of the line of flexure 8. The hinge means along the line of flexure 8 are provided by a flexible seam 33 already discussed. A cover sheet 26 is also shown albeit only on the top surface. An additional cover sheet 26 may optionally be positioned beneath the seam 33 and covering a part of the recess 30 and a part of the underside of the distal peak portion 9. In the embodiment shown, the rearwardly extending skirt 29 is received in a recessed portion 30 of the proximal peak portion 10 such that the underside of the peak 3 presents a substantially planar surface with no substantial protrusions. The material of the skirt 29 may advantageously be a relatively resilient material capable of presenting a blocking element against a moving projectile. It may advantageously be made from or be coated with a material having a high surface friction. A downward force applied to the distal peak portion 9 would tend to urge the skirt 29 upwards. Since the skirt 29 lies parallel to and adjacent the underside of the peak 3, the skirt 29 to some extent prevents the distal peak portion 9 from being deflected downwards, because its upward movement is blocked. Also shown in Fig. 3d is a shoulder 32 defining the rearmost (proximal) extent of the recess 30. The proximal edge of the skirt 29 may abut and contact at least a part of the shoulder 32. This ensures an additional resistance to a deflection of the distal portion of the peak 9 in a downward direction, because the skirt 29 cannot be pushed in an upward direction since it is prevented from doing so by its contact with the shoulder 32 and also by its position lying against the surface of the recess 32. Also shown in Fig. 3d by way of example is a preventer in the form of a fastener element 21 . The fastener element 21 may be a strip of spot of adhesive or a mechanical fastener such as a hook and loop fastener. The preventer may comprise one or more such fastener elements 21 . A force applied to the distal peak portion 9 tending to urge it upwards will have no effect when a preventer is in place unless it causes the fattener release threshold force to be exceeded. This ensures that the composite peak 3 of the helmet 1 of the invention retains its original configuration under most circumstances during normal use. It ensures that the special action of the helmet peak only takes effect when a force of a projectile sufficient to potentially lead to injury is applied to the distal peak portion 9. Figs 3e and 3f show hinge members in the form of barrel and pivot hinges 25 applied to the top surfaces of the peak 3 on both sides of the line of flexure 8. Although the barrel hinges 25 provide a robust articulation across the line of flexure, their relatively low resistance to bending may require additional use of a biasing means or a preventer. In Fig. 3f, there is shown a textured surface layer applied to the majority of the underside of distal 9 peak portion 9. In the case illustrated, the surface layer exhibits a toothed profile with the pinnacles oriented generally towards the tip of the distal peak portion 9. Any suitable texture or relief profile may be used. Also shown in Fig. 3f is a hinge element in the form of a linear recess 6. In this embodiment, the structural material of the proximal and distal peak portions 10, 9 are made from a continuous piece of the same material. In Figs. 3a-3f, any element may be combined with any other element as far as possible. The embodiments shown are non-exhaustive examples and different configurations of the various elements are included as part of this disclosure. For example, the recess 30 and skirt 29 as illustrated in Fig. 3d could be combined with a hinge element 31 of Fig. 3c or 3f or 3b. In other words, all elements which are illustrated are interchangeable.
Figs. 4a and 4b are figurative only and show a peaked helmet 1 according to the present invention coupled with a face-guard 50. The helmet 1 and guard 50 are viewed in a three-dimensional perspective view about a central vertical axis 24. The face guard 50 is fixedly suspended from the helmet shell 4 via its attachment 16, which, in the case illustrated, is a perforated plate which fits to the helmet attachments on each side of the helmet shell. A pin 14 protrudes from the helmet shell and passes through the face guard attachment 16. A nut 15 secures the attachment 16 to each of the pins 14. The face guard is comprised of a series of rigid struts 52-59 formed into a protective cage which, when the guard 50 is fixed to the helmet, extends around and to the sides of the face a wearer of the helmet 1 , thereby protecting the wearer from impacts by airborne projectiles such as balls or pucks. A viewing aperture known as a viewing gap 20 extends laterally across substantially the full lateral extent of the field of vision of a wearer when the helmet is worn. The viewing gap 20 is bounded at its top by the lower edge 7 of the helmet shell 4, by the peak 3 and at its lower edge by a sill 52 which is part of the guard 50 and which extends transversely around the face of a wearer. In Fig. 4a, the sill 52 is made up of a heavier gauge strut than the remaining struts in the face guard 50. A broken line 1 1 denotes a generally inward bound trajectory from outside the helmet 1 through the viewing gap 20 towards the inside of the helmet 1. When a projectile such as a ball passes along an inbound trajectory 1 1 , it strikes the sill 52 and is diverted towards the distal peak portion 9, thereby deflecting it and causing it to present an oblique surface which tends to block further passage of the ball or projectile through the viewing aperture 20. A ball may thereby in particular become jammed between the sill 52 and the peak 3.
In some embodiments (see Fig. 4b), the sill 52 may comprise more than one transverse strut, such as two struts 54, 55. This allows the possibility to arrange the struts such that an inmost strut 54 is positioned inward and above an outer strut 55. One effect of providing more than one strut and of offsetting them both radially and laterally from each other is to increase the tendency for a projectile to be pushed towards the peak 3 as it moves progressively along an inward trajectory 1 1 . This increases the friction with the sill 52 and the dissipation of the projectile's energy by the sill 52. All of these effects tend to increase the blocking effect and jamming effect of a projectile in the arrangement, thereby increasing its protective effect. In an advantageous embodiment of the guard illustrated in Fig. 4b, the sill 52 presents a first distal surface and a second proximal surface, both of which face into the viewing gap 20 and both of which lie along a common viewing axis 60. In the embodiment of Fig. 4b, the first distal surface is provided on an outermost strut 55 (i.e. the distal strut) of the sill 52, while the second proximal surface is provided on an innermost strut 54 (i.e. the proximal strut) of the sill 52. The common viewing axis 60 along which said first and second surfaces are disposed intersects said central vertical axis 24 enclosing an internal angle a between 30 degrees and 70 degrees. More preferably, the internal angle a may lie between 35 degrees and 60 degrees. Still preferably, the internal angle a may lie between 40 degrees and 55 degrees. Preferably, those parts of the sill 52 which present a said first and second surface on a common viewing axis 60 extend through a lateral viewing angle of at least 30. The lateral viewing angle in this context is the enclosed angle in a lateral plane measured at the central vertical axis 24, which straddles the vertical plane of symmetry of the helmet and guard and which encompasses the field of vision of a wearer of the helmet 1 . Considering that the lateral field of vision of most humans is about 160 degrees, an at least 30 degree field or greater, extending across a central vertical line of symmetry, provides good enhanced protection from forward angles of view along which projectiles may travel. In further preferred embodiments, the parts of the sill 52 which present a said first and second surface on a common viewing axis 60 may extend through a lateral viewing angle of at least 45 degrees, more preferably at least 60 degrees, still preferably at least 80 degrees. In some embodiments, a lateral viewing angle through at least 120 degrees, or at least 150 degrees may be provided. The viewing gap 20 becomes progressively narrower around towards the sides and rear of the guard 1 . The most forward point of the sill 52 may coincide with the widest extent of the viewing aperture 20. Figs 5a and 5b show figurative side views of embodiments of the helmet 1 of the invention with a guard 50 attached. In Fig. 5a, the approximate position of an eye of a wearer is indicated inside the helmet shell 4. The wearer has a significantly unimpeded view outward through the viewing gap 20 as illustrated by an upper viewing axis 61 , a lower viewing axis 60 and a mid- viewing axis 62. The guard 50 is provided with an upper transverse sill 52 which delimits the lower boundary of the viewing gap 52, while the upper limit of the viewing gap is defined by the peak 3. In the case illustrated in Fig. 5a is comprised of an outer lowermost transverse strut 55 and an inner uppermost transverse strut 54. The outer transverse strut 55 is effectively masked from the wearer's view by virtue of being arranged substantially along a common viewing axis 60. This enables additional protection to be provided on the guard 50 without increasing the obstruction in the field of view of a wearer.
The helmet 1 , the width of the viewing aperture 20 and the type of face guard 50 employed should be adapted to the type of projectile or ball in play. In particular, the width across viewing aperture 20 should correspond to a ball size which is slightly larger than the aperture width. An illustration is provided in Fig. 5b in which a ball 48 is shown figuratively having struck the sill 52 after following a trajectory 37 approximately along a viewing axis. The ball 48 is diverted in a generally upward direction 47 where it pushes against the distal peak portion 9 causing it to tilt and present an oblique surface against the ball 48. As can be seen from arrows 35, 36, the skirt 29 of the distal peak portion moves into the viewing aperture while the forward part of the distal peak portion 9 moves upward. The effect of this movement is to block or jam the ball 48 in the viewing aperture 20 without it passing through to injure a wearer of the helmet 1 . The ball 48 which is illustrated has a marginally greater diameter than the width across the gap 20. For any given ball diameter and gap 20 size, the arrangement according to the present invention provides additional protection against passage of the ball 48 through the gap 20. The width of the viewing gap at any point across the viewing gap 20 is measured as the shortest upward 5 distance between the peak 3 and the transverse sill 53. In one advantageous embodiment, the viewing aperture 20 has a maximum width dimension equal to between 65% and 95% of the diameter of a standard cricket ball or baseball. More preferably, the viewing aperture 20 has a maximum width dimension equal to between 75% and 90% of the diameter of a standard cricket ball or baseball.
Further features and equivalents to the features which are illustrated will be readily apparent to one of skill in the art.
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