US 20030167557 A1
A body protective device for protection from the waist area to the knees area from impact-based injuries, especially relating to sports activities, is provided by a composite body protector having a fabric outer garment and protective elements, in particular soft elements and semi-rigid and rigid elements, that are selectively provided in predetermined locations within the outer garment for protecting from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx and other proximal body parts from injuries related to impact during sports or athletic activities.
1. A protective device for providing protection from injuries to the coccyx of a user comprising:
a substantially flexible outer garment further including
protective elements that are provided in predetermined locations within the outer garment to provide impact-resistance from objects,
thereby providing protection from the waist area to the knee area, including the coccyx and other body parts from injuries related to impact during sports or athletic activities.
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 In the following description, like reference characters designate like or corresponding parts throughout the several views. Also in the following description, it is to be understood that such terms as “forward,” “rearward,” “front,” “back,” “right,” “left,” “upwardly,” “downwardly,” and the like are words of convenience and are not to be construed as limiting terms.
 Referring now to the drawings in general, the illustrations are for the purpose of describing a preferred embodiment of the invention and are not intended to limit the invention thereto. The present invention provides for a protective device that is formed by a substantially flexible outer garment and protective elements, in particular soft elements and rigid elements, that are provided within the outer garment for protecting the coccyx from injury related to impact during sports or athletic activities. The elements combine to form an overall composite shield, which is collectively provided by the either rigid elements or soft elements, depending upon the level of impact resistant and/or energy absorption desired. The elements are insertable into the garment either during manufacturing, or by the user prior to use of the protective device. In a preferred embodiment, the elements are selectively removable, and may be inserted into pockets within the garment or attached by fasteners, e.g., hook and loop type fasteners, snaps, buttons, hooks and eyes, and the like. In another embodiment, the elements are fixed, in particular to ensure that the best and most complete protection possible from all elements is provided and cannot be tampered with.
 The outer garment may be variably sized to cover the coccyx and more or less of the region of the body proximal to the coccyx of the user.
 One embodiment of the present invention, shown in FIG. 1, includes a protective device designed, constructed and configured to provide protection for the region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user, the device generally referenced 10, including a fabric outer garment 12 and a protective element 14, in particular a composite element with soft elements and rigid elements, that is selectively provided in a predetermined location within the outer garment and housed within a pocket 15 in the garment for protecting vital organs and other body parts from injury related to impact during sports or athletic activities. A side view of an embodiment is shown in FIG. 2, wherein protective elements extend over the front thigh region 18. As show in FIG. 3, Cup-shaped elements 24 functioning as genital protection may be incorporated into the garment in the genital region. Connective webbing 20 is provided around the sides and genital areas to provide for increased freedom of movement and breathability, while still providing protection over the critical regions from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user.
 The semi-rigid and rigid elements are composite elements formed of fabric elements, in particular woven, knitted, or braided fabrics, either in single or multiple layers are used; preferably, 3D engineered fiber preforms or fabrics are used, which are formed by a 3D fabric-forming method selected from the group consisting of 3D weaving, 3D braiding, 3D circular weaving, and multiaxial weaving. Alternatively, plastic, injection-molded pieces are used for the semi-rigid and rigid elements in another embodiment according to the present invention. In particular, true 3D weaving involving three orthogonal, non-interlacing yam systems are preferred; such true 3D woven constructions are formed by the methods set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 5,085,252 issued Feb. 4, 1992 to Mohamed, et al. for METHOD OF FORMING VARIABLE CROSS-SECTIONAL SHAPED THREE-DIMENSIONAL FABRICS which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. Also, U.S. Pat. No. 5,465,760 issued Nov. 14, 1995 to Mohamed, et al. for MULTILAYER THREE-DIMENSIONAL FABRIC AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING is also incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. Elements to protect different organs or regions may be formed from different fabric-forming methods, such that the overall protective device may include a variety of element types or homogeneous elements. These composite elements are preferably formed of pre-shaped components including shells or sheaths of 3D engineered materials that are infused with resin, e.g., vinylester, for providing additional stiffness, strength, and/or impact-resistance.
 The outer garment may be fabricated using a close-fitting material, preferably one Is with at least some memory so that the user's general body shape is maintained during use and is retained during subsequent uses. Also, breathable material is preferred so that the user is not uncomfortable due to extra heat induced by the garment during wear and activity. It is preferred that the material be cleanable, more preferably washable, since use during athletic activity would likely soil the garment. Additionally, a protective, soil-resistant coating may be applied. The outer garment preferably includes materials having breathability, such as COOLMAX fabric, which is commercially available by DuPont. Another commercially available breathable polypropylene fabric that is tight fitting is commercially available by Under Armor at www.underarmor.com. Other similar or equivalent materials are considered to be applicable and within the scope of the present invention.
 In one embodiment according to the present invention, the garment is made of a knitted spacer material for providing a predetermined bulk while maintaining a lightweight, stretchable fabric. Additional stretch may be provided, as needed, by the introduction of SPANDEX material into the spacer material.
 The elements may be pre-shaped or pre-molded. The elements include both premolded foam padded elements and rigid, composite elements. The premolded foam padded elements offer soft protection for the coccyx in low-impact sport activities. whereas during high-impact activities, rigid, composite elements that are molded into the garment can be used in order to offer close and comfortable fitting of the protective device.
 Also, these composite elements may be custom-fitted and molded into the garment; alternatively, these may be removable, e.g., for washing or cleaning the garment. Additionally, these elements may be removable in order to provide the user with selective protection, depending upon the level of protection and risk associated with the particular sports activity. A custom-fitted version is considered to be the best mode of the invention, in order to provide the optimal level of protection and freedom of movement or overall performance of the protective device according to the present invention. In one embodiment, where a custom-fitted garment includes 3D engineered fiber structures that are preformed to a near net shape element or formed, cut, and approximately shaped to a predetermined sized element, depending upon the size of the region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user to be protected, the element is treated with a resin that is either moisture- or temperature-curable, such that exposure to either moisture or higher than body temperature, respectively, provides for activation and setting of the resin in order to form a rigid composite element. In an alternative embodiment, the outer garment can be purchased to fit an approximate the region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user, including the coccyx area size and shape, e.g., extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, etc. and may be provided for either male or female body types or for unisex shaping. In particular, because women's pelvises are wider and the coccyx is more exposed, the padding may be shaped and configured to be wider. For young children, the pad may be unisex, given that there is little sexual dimorphism in pelvic anatomy until puberty. The padded elements and rigid composite elements are provided separately such that they may be selectively inserted and removable from the outer garment. In a preferred embodiment, pockets are provided for maintaining the elements in an approximate position to protect the body parts and organs; in another embodiment, attachment means or fasteners such as hook and loop type fasteners, e.g., VELCRO, are provided to ensure releasable attachment with the garment during use.
 The preforms used for the composite elements are manufactured from engineered fibers, in particular synthetic fibers, and including but not limited to KEVLAR, fiberglass, carbon, nylon, and combinations thereof. The padded elements are preferably manufactured from a resilient material, such as foams, including molded dual density foam, polyurethane, neoprene, and EVA foams. Preferably, the foam is selected from EVA or polyurethane foams, or foam alternatives, or other comfort liner materials.
 Foam alternatives may include materials such as SKYDEX padding, which is commercially provided by Skydex, as set forth in the website www.skydex.com, and which provides for improved durability for washing and cleaning when compared with many foams, as well as improved performance and impact resistance, and it maintains its energy absorbing and/or energy dispersing qualities, while not absorbing moisture. Perforations in such foams are desirable in order to ensure some breathability of the overall protective wear when using soft padded elements. Another breathable foam or foam alternative material that may be used with the present invention is SPACENET, which is commercially provided by Spacenet, as listed in the website www.spacenetmaterials.com.
 The overall protective device, including the outer garment and the protective elements, both soft padded and rigid composite elements, are preferably custom-fitted to the user, are lightweight, and present a low profile so as not to inhibit freedom of movement of the user during athletic activities. As set forth hereinabove, the elements may be initially flexible with later hardening after conforming substantially to the user's body shape and size, or the elements may be partially flexible and partially rigid, thereby forming an articulated protective device when connected with the outer garment. These elements may be joined by the outer garment itself, or they may alternatively or additionally be joined by webbing or other connective means, including jointing, stretch webbing, hook and loop type fasteners such as VELCRO fasteners, or they may be overlapped or hinged, preferably by synthetic or plastic connectors. The joined or jointed elements act as discrete protective components and can move relative to each other, thereby providing freedom of movement required for sports activities while providing protection for the coccyx area covered with the device and its elements. Furthermore, the elements may be disc-shaped components or substantially body part-shaped components in order to provide the optimal coverage and moveability for the user.
 Overall, one advantage of the invention is that by having a pad in close intimate contact with the body, in particular, from the compression of the garment, wherein the better fit provides improved impact dispersion of blunt trauma forces. This occurs because more of the protective pad is in contact with the body reducing point loading and allowing impact dispersion. When compared to traditional pad systems that simply “hang” from the body, the compression garment provides a superior “fit” of the pads equals superior protection.
 A significant advantage is provided by the use of three-dimensional (3D) materials such as those supplied commercially by 3TEX, Inc. of Cary, N.C., in that the materials provide a decrease of about 20% in the force transferred to the body, with approximately a 20% lighter weight compared to traditional materials, e.g., ABS plastic listed in Table 1 below. Test results as measured by an independent drop test device, which simulates impacts and records energy dispersing properties of the materials tested, show the following data for the present invention when compared with the prior art. The following test results of Table 1 illustrate the advantages of the use of the 3D materials when compared with traditional materials used in other protective device applications:
 Certain modifications and improvements will occur to those skilled in the art upon a reading of the foregoing description and research results. By way of example, substitute three-dimensional (3D) materials, including other resin-infused materials may be used; other energy dispersing foams in combination with the 3D resin infused materials may be used; and other breathable and/or tight fitting garments may be used without departing from the scope of the present invention.
 A related application of the present invention include special needs children, e.g., hemopheliacs, physical handicaps, and the like, and elderly persons or persons who may be more susceptible to injuries due to medications, where injuries due to falls can be serious, and even life-threatening. Other applications for the present invention include protective wear for law enforcement, security officers, and military personnel from injuries.
 All modifications and improvements have been deleted herein for the sake of conciseness and readability but are properly within the scope of the following claims.
FIG. 1 is a back view of a protective device constructed according to the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a front view of the device of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a side view of the device of FIG. 1.
 (1) Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates generally to protective body wear and, more particularly, to a body protective device for protection from impact-based injuries, especially relating to sports and playground activities.
 (2) Description of the Prior Art
 Trauma to muscle, ligament, tendon, and bone tissues can manifest in a variety of conditions.
 Soft tissue injuries may progress to ossification, resulting in impaired function. Ossification of muscle tissue, known as posttraumatic myositis ossificans, is a condition characterized by heterotopic bone formation in the soft tissues following trauma. The process occurs most often in muscle, but may also occur in ligaments, tendons, fascia, and joint capsules.
 Bone trauma can result in a variety of sequelae—osteomyelitis, reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, osteonecrosis, osteoarthritis, intraosseous fracture (bone bruise), fracture and cancer.
 Fractures are breaks in the bone or cartilage. In the pelvis, fractures commonly occur at the sacrum, coccyx, iliac wing, and acetabulum.
 Fracture complications can be immediate, intermediate, and delayed. Immediate complications include arterial injury, compartment syndrome, gas gangrene, fat embolism syndrome, and thromboembolism. Intermediate complications include osteomyelitis, reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, posttraumatic osteolysis, myositis ossificans, and synostosis. Delayed complications include osteonecrosis, degenerative joint disease, osteoporosis, aneurysmal bone cyst, nonunion, and malunion.
 Osteonecrosis, also known as avascular necrosis is a focal bone infarction, which may be secondary to trauma. The femoral head is a common sites of posttraumatic avascular necrosis.
 Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, is an arthropathy with altered hyaline cartilage and characterized by loss of articular cartilage and hypertrophy of bone, producing osteophytes. It is a form of arthritis that results in the destruction of the articular cartilage that line the joints and often is cause by trauma.
 Type I osteoporosis (postmenopausal osteoporosis) occurs between ages 51 and 75 yr. Type II osteoporosis or senile osteoporosis is associated with normal processes of aging and it typically occurs in patients >60 yr and is twice as common in women as in men. Type II affects trabecular and cortical bone, often resulting in fractures of the femoral neck, vertebrae, and pelvis. Sometime a minor fall on the hip or buttocks can cause osteoporotic bone to fracture.
 Aneurysmal bone cyst, a type of malignant cancer, has been documented to follow a traumatic event. It is believed to occur via the conversion of a sub-periosteal hematoma into an expansile tumor.
 Several types of joint injuries due to trauma are observed. Joint subluxation is the abnormal movement of one of the bones that comprise a joint. This is not a true dislocation, but a partial dislocation. The sacroiliac joint and coccyx are prone to subluxation injuries. Diastasis is the traumatic separation of bones at a suture line or at a slightly movable joint, a syndesmosis. Common locations for this to occur are the pubic symphysis and the distal tibiofibular syndesmosis. The chondral and osteochondral fractures are fractures through a joint surface. Epiphyseal fractures are fracture through a growth plate.
 Tendon and ligament trauma can also result from impact injuries. Injuries can occur from a direct strike to the tendon or ligament, or can result from a blow to the tendon or muscle that causes a reflex contraction that ruptures or strains the tendon.
 Regional osteoporosis as a sequel to trauma can be manifested as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome and disuse and immobilization osteoporosis, e.g. from being in a cast or wheelchair.
 The coccyx is the triangular bony structure located at the bottom of the vertebral column. It is composed of 3-5 bony segments held in place by joints and ligaments. The Coccyx (os coccygis) is usually formed of four rudimentary vertebræ; the number may, however, be increased to five or diminished to three. In each of the first three segments may be traced a rudimentary body and articular and transverse processes; the last piece (sometimes the third) is a mere nodule of bone. All the segments are destitute of pedicles, laminæ, and spinous processes. The first is the largest; it resembles the lowest sacral vertebra, and often exists as a separate piece; the last three diminish in size from above downward, and are usually fused with one another.
 The coccyx is ossified from four centers, one for each segment. The ossific nuclei make their appearance in the following order: in the first segment between the first and fourth years; in the second between the fifth and tenth years; in the third between the tenth and fifteenth years; in the fourth between the fourteenth and twentieth years. As age advances, the segments unite with one another, the union between the first and second segments being frequently delayed until after the age of twenty-five or thirty. At a late period of life, especially in females, the coccyx often fuses with the sacrum.
 A coccyx injury results in pain and discomfort in the tailbone area (the condition is called coccydynia). These injuries may result in a bruise, dislocation, or fracture (break) of the coccyx. Although they may be slow to heal, the majority of coccyx injuries can be managed with cautious treatment. Anecdotal evidence also supports a causal relationship between injuries to the coccyx and multiple sclerosis (MS). Chiropractors have observed this relationship in many patients over many years. Dr. LaShoto, the inventor of the present invention, has treated a police officer who slipped and fell and fractured his coccyx; several years later, he developed MS. He was examined by one of the top MS specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital and a neurologist agreed that the patient's old coccyx injury probably caused his MS condition. The neurologist indicated that he, too has noticed a causal connection for many years. MS is very prevalent in the Eskimo populations and in the northern lattitudes, which makes sense, because of all the coccyx injuries related to slipping and falling on snow and ice.
 The majority of coccyx injuries occur in women, because the female pelvis is broader and the coccyx is more exposed. If the injury occurs after the coccyx has fused to the sacrum, the sacrum can be extensively injured, also.
 Thus, there is a need for a protective device for providing protection from injuries to the coccyx of persons engaging in athletic activity, more specifically, to the sacrum of women playing sports.
 Typically, it is known to provide protective equipment for players in sports activities, especially where the sport involved high impact or the risk of injury from projectiles or bodily contact. Prior art protective devices to prevent injury to the coccyx region are also known.
 Prior art protective equipment commonly employs a hard shell that is strapped to the body, e.g., soccer shin guards, helmets, and the like, or a soft, padded covering that is worn as a garment over clothing, e.g., baseball catcher's padded vests, knee and elbow pads for volleyball and basketball, and the like. However, the protective equipment of prior art does not provide adequate protection from high impact, in particular from projectiles that may incidentally and inadvertently strike a body portion that is not typically covered with adequate protective equipment, e.g., the chest and heart region, the throat and neck region, etc., depending upon the sport. Also, the protective equipment is often bulky, uncomfortable, and does not adequately disperse energy.
 Many prior art devices for protecting sports players from impacts do not provide adequate protection for vital organs from blunt trauma forces, in particular from projectiles as in baseball, softball, lacrosse, hockey, and the like. Vital organs like the like reproductive organs and tissues surrounding the waist area to the knee area and other critical regions are particularly vulnerable to injuries due to impacts from such forces. Data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Injury Information Clearinghouse from 1998 reported that injuries requiring hospital emergency room visits just from baseball included estimated totals of more than 4,200 upper trunk injuries, 4,600 lower trunk injuries, 1,300 neck injuries, 8,200 mouth injuries, 8,200 shoulder injuries, 17,900 head injuries, 42,000 face injuries, and 2,600 eye injuries; similarly, from the same report for 2000, there were reported more than a total of 182,000 injuries, including 5,100 upper trunk injuries, 5,200 lower trunk injuries, 8,800 shoulder injuries, 18,100 head injuries, 39,000 face injuries, and 3,400 eye injuries. Furthermore, in 2000, basketball injuries totaled more than 600,000; boxing, more than 13,000; football, nearly 400,000, hockey, ice hockey, street hockey and field hockey, more than 69,400; soccer, more than 185,000; lacrosse, more than 7,400; sledding, more than 38,000; and gas, air or spring-operated guns, as in paint ball, more than 17,000. Overall, sporting-related injuries that required hospital emergency room visits were estimated to be more than 3.4 million in 2000, according to these statistics. These figures do not include visits to private physicians or other medical care providers.
 By way of example, applicant's son, James Patrick LaShoto, was struck by a foul ball in the on-deck circle during a little league baseball game for 8-10 year olds in Waltham, Mass. in May 2001, which resulted in a 5-inch diameter bruise on his stomach for more than one month. He had little time, if any, to react in order to move out of the way or protect himself from being hit. Also, he was playing second base in baseball in June 2001 when he was struck by a baseball in the face, in particular the eye region. Fortunately, he was wearing virtually shatterproof polycarbonate sunglasses for protection, which likely prevented a permanent injury or blindness in his right eye. Thus, by way of real-life case-in-point, the use of protective devices for sports participants, especially for children, is valuable.
 However, most effective impact-resistant protective devices are cumbersome, heavy, or hot and may restrict movement, which may discourage sports players or participants from wearing adequate protection to prevent injury in the event of projectile or other direct impact.
 Thus, there remains a need for a protective device that permits freedom of movement and breathability during athletic activity while offering protection from injurious impact from projectiles or direct impacts to the region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user of the body.
 The present invention is directed to a body protective device for providing protection to the region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user from impact-based injuries, especially relating to sports activities.
 The present invention is directed to a protective device having a substantially flexible outer garment enclosing soft and rigid composite elements or shields that are premolded or custom-fit to conform to the shape of the user's region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user.
 One aspect of the present invention is to provide a protective device for the region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user for players of sports including a fabric-based covering encasing composite elements and that is premolded or custom-fit to the user, is lightweight, and that presents a low profile so as not to inhibit freedom of movement of the user during athletic activities.
 Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a protective device for the coccyx for players of sports including a fabric-based covering that includes selectively removable composite elements and that is premolded or custom-fit to the user, is lightweight, and that presents a low profile so as not to inhibit freedom of movement of the user during athletic activities.
 Basically, one advantage of the invention is that by having pads in close intimate contact with the region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user, in particular, from the compression of the garment, wherein the better fit provides improved impact dispersion of blunt trauma forces. This occurs because more of the protective pad is in contact with the body reducing point loading and allowing superior impact dispersion. When compared to traditional pad systems that are not adequately contoured to the body area, the compression of the pads in the region from the waist area to the knees area, including the coccyx area of the user, provides a superior “fit” of the pads that equals superior protection to the user.
 These and other aspects of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art after a reading of the following description of the preferred embodiment when considered with the drawings.
 This nonprovisional utility patent application claims the benefit of one or more prior filed copending, nonprovisional applications; a reference to each such prior application is identified as the relationship of the applications and application number (series code/serial number): The present application is a Continuation-In-Part of application Ser. No. 10/095,234, which is incorporated herein by reference in its/their entirety.