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Publication numberUS20050130803 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/910,940
Publication dateJun 16, 2005
Filing dateAug 4, 2004
Priority dateAug 4, 2003
Publication number10910940, 910940, US 2005/0130803 A1, US 2005/130803 A1, US 20050130803 A1, US 20050130803A1, US 2005130803 A1, US 2005130803A1, US-A1-20050130803, US-A1-2005130803, US2005/0130803A1, US2005/130803A1, US20050130803 A1, US20050130803A1, US2005130803 A1, US2005130803A1
InventorsJahangir Rastegar, Thomas Spinelli
Original AssigneeRastegar Jahangir S., Thomas Spinelli
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Safety devices and methods for gymnastics and other activities
US 20050130803 A1
Abstract
An apparatus for protecting an individual from an unintended fall is provided. The apparatus includes: a retractable cover positioned where the individual is likely to fall and covering a safe area for the unintended fall; a sensor for detecting a likelihood of an occurrence of the unintended fall; and an actuation mechanism for removing the retractable cover to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely. The actuation mechanism can also remove the retractable cover to expose the safe area where an observer recognizes that an occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.
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Claims(12)
1. An apparatus for protecting an individual from an unintended fall, the apparatus comprising:
a retractable cover positioned where the individual is likely to fall and covering a safe area for the unintended fall;
a sensor for detecting a likelihood of an occurrence of the unintended fall; and
an actuation mechanism for removing the retractable cover to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the individual is a gymnast.
3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the safe area is a pit having a soft material disposed therein.
4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the soft material is foam.
5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the sensor is a computer vision system.
6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the retractable cover comprises two or more segments, each of which is movable to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.
7. An apparatus for protecting an individual from an unintended fall, the apparatus comprising:
a retractable cover positioned where the individual is likely to fall and covering a safe area for the unintended fall; and
an actuation mechanism for removing the retractable cover to expose the safe area where an observer recognizes that an occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.
8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the individual is a gymnast.
9. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the safe area is a pit having a soft material disposed therein.
10. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein the soft material is foam.
11. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the retractable cover comprises two or more segments, each of which is movable to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.
12. A method for protecting an individual from an unintended fall, the method comprising:
positioning a retractable cover where the individual is likely to fall and covering a safe area for the unintended fall;
detecting a likelihood of an occurrence of the unintended fall; and
removing the retractable cover to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of earlier filed provisional patent application, 60/492,456 filed Aug. 4, 2003, entitled “Safety Devices For Gymnastics and Pole Vaulting,” the contents of which are incorporated herein by its reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to safety devices, and more particularly, to safety devices and methods for use in gymnastics and other activities.

2. Prior Art

Gymnastics is a dangerous sport. Every year, thousands of children and adults suffer injuries during gymnastics activities. These injuries occur mostly in training although injuries also occur during various national and international competitions. One of the most often occurring injuries in gymnastics is due to falls or improper landing after dismount from the parallel bars, high bars or rings. Most injuries occur during practice, even though in these situations mats with various thickness and degree of softness, depending on the characteristics of the gymnast and his/her degree of expertise and the type of exercise to be performed, are commonly placed in the landing area to absorb the shock during landing or in case of a fall. The most dangerous fall is where an athlete falls on his/her head. Such falls can cause serious spinal injury and may even be fatal. Falls on the shoulder, side or the back are less dangerous, but may cause serious soft tissue damage and/or bone fracture or joint dislocation. Uncontrollable foot landing is usually least dangerous, with the most probable short-term injuries being those of the knee or ankle due to twisting of the foot and/or the knee joints. However, with the current mats in use, particularly with the stiffer mats used while practicing dismount and landing and in competitions, the high level of repetitive impact loading of the limbs, particularly the foot, ankle and the knee joints, and even the spinal structure can cause serious long-term medical problems.

One suggestion has been to have the athlete wear a helmet. A helmet would provide a certain amount of protection if landing is, for example, on the back or on the side and the head is to hit a hard surface or member. However, a helmet does not provide protection from falls on or nearly on the head, which usually cause the severest types of injuries. In addition, wearing of a helmet is very cumbersome and interferes with the sport itself; therefore, athletes generally avoid wearing them. In addition, helmets cannot be worn in competitions and do not prevent injuries as the result of falls on the side or feet on hard surfaces.

A schematic of a gymnast 100 dismounting from a high bar 101 with posts 102 is shown in FIG. 1. Most of the time during practice, particularly while learning new routines, the routings are performed in front of a landing pit 103 so that during accidental falls and/or during improper landing, the possibility of injury becomes negligible. The pit 103 is several feet deep and is filled with relatively small, soft foam cubes 105 so that when the gymnast falls into the pit, even with head first, it would bring him to a stop relatively slowly with negligible impact loading. When the gymnast has learned the routine well and is ready to practice landing, mats 104 with various thickness and softness are used to minimize impact loading during landing and to prevent injury during less than perfect landings. A properly selected thick and soft mat 104 does minimize impact and prevent serious injuries when landing is not done well, for example, when it is not at a proper angle or not balanced and the athlete eventually falls forward or on his behind. However, the mats do minimize, but do not prevent falls on the back or the side. The mats almost never can protect the gymnast against falls on the head. For the case of very young gymnast who is relatively lightweight, the trainer can usually protect the gymnast from a fall by catching him/her in the air. Such an option does not exist when the gymnast becomes a taller and heavier. The option of using a pit, a thick and soft mat, or the trainer protection is not generally available during competitions. During competitions, much harder mats are required to be used. Harder mats must also be used while practicing for landing. Harder mats are generally used in the competitions. Harder mats are needed during competition so that the gymnast can present his landing skills without the excessive deformation of the mat, which tend to make the athlete lose his/her control during landing.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A need therefore exists for methods and systems based on those methods to prevent fall injuries in the sport of gymnastics. Such systems should obviously be designed such that they would not impede the athlete from performing in the sport. The objective of the methods, systems and their components that are disclosed in this invention is to provide systems for preventing fall injuries in the sport of gymnastics.

A method of the present invention is based on providing appropriate pits 103 with covers, which are “retractable” in case of fall danger. In this method, by allowing the athlete to fall into the pit 103, the possibility of injury is minimized. The retractable cover also serves as a mat with the appropriate amount of impact absorption and stiffness. The design and construction of such pits and the pieces of sponge or foam materials to be used for their filling are well known in the art and are commercially available.

The system based on the aforementioned method may be equipped with one or more sensors to detect a dangerous fall or landing and trigger the activation of the injury prevention mechanism(s) of the system. The sensory device is preferably a vision system that tracks the athlete and based on the athlete trajectory, determines the probability of a dangerous situation emerging. Alternatively, a trained observer such as the coach may activate the injury prevention mechanism(s) of the system. Experienced and physically capable trainers are routinely used to prevent dangerous falls in younger, i.e., smaller and lighter, gymnasts with great success. However, preferably the input from more than one sensory system as well as from an experienced trainer are used to provide a redundant triggering signal for more safety and operational reliability.

The aforementioned method of using pits to provide for safe falls and improper landings can be used in two different situations. Firstly, the situation in which the gymnast is intended to land in the pit anyway, e.g., during the exercise. In this situation, once the gymnast has mounted the parallel bars, high bars or the rings, the hard floor (normally covered by a mat) is no longer needed and is therefore retracted. For the particular case of parallel bars, the space between the parallel bars is never used for dismount and this part of the pit covering can always be retracted following mounting, even in competitions. As a result, when the gymnast dismounts, he/she lands in the pit, thereby the probability of injury is minimized.

Accordingly, an apparatus for protecting an individual from an unintended fall is provided. The apparatus comprising: a retractable cover positioned where the individual is likely to fall and covering a safe area for the unintended fall; a sensor for detecting a likelihood of an occurrence of the unintended fall; and an actuation mechanism for removing the retractable cover to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.

The individual can be a gymnast. The safe area can be a pit having a soft material disposed therein. The soft material can be foam.

The sensor can be a computer vision system.

The retractable cover can comprises two or more segments, each of which is movable to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.

Also provided is an apparatus for protecting an individual from an unintended fall. The apparatus comprising: a retractable cover positioned where the individual is likely to fall and covering a safe area for the unintended fall; and an actuation mechanism for removing the retractable cover to expose the safe area where an observer recognizes that an occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.

The individual can be a gymnast. The safe area can be a pit having a soft material disposed therein. The soft material can be foam.

The retractable cover can comprise two or more segments, each of which is movable to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.

Still further provided is a method for protecting an individual from an unintended fall. The method comprising: positioning a retractable cover where the individual is likely to fall and covering a safe area for the unintended fall; detecting a likelihood of an occurrence of the unintended fall; and removing the retractable cover to expose the safe area where the sensor detects the occurrence of the unintended fall is likely.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the apparatus and methods of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying drawings where:

FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic of a high bar apparatus of the prior art.

FIG. 2 illustrates a side schematic view of a high bar apparatus of an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates a schematic cross sectional view of the apparatus of FIG. 2 as taken along line 3-3 in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 illustrates a segmented retractable cover for use in the apparatus of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Although this invention is applicable to numerous and various types of activities, it has been found particularly useful in the environment of gymnastics. Therefore, without limiting the applicability of the invention to gymnastics, the invention will be described in such environment.

Referring now to FIG. 2, the same illustrates a schematic for a high bar gymnastics apparatus. Although FIG. 2 illustrates a high bar apparatus, the same can also be used for parallel bars and the rings. In FIG. 2, the pit system 103 is shown with the high bar 101 and its posts 102. The landing pit 103 is positioned under the high bar and covers the entire area within which the gymnast may land in the worst possible accidental fall or improper landing. The landing pit 103 is filled with the aforementioned material 105. The pit is covered with a retractable cover 106.

The retractable cover can be flexible such as a safety net or a rigid or semi rigid surface. For example, the retractable top can have a rigid bottom, which is covered with a softer top, such as a foam safety mat.

The triggering mechanism and mechanism for retracting the retractable cover can be any such mechanisms known in the art, such as those disclosed in co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 10/406,954, the contents of which is incorporated herein by its reference in its entirety.

The cross-section 3-3 of the pit 103 and its retractable cover 106 of FIG. 2 are shown in FIG. 3. The system is equipped with a sensor 107, which can be a vision system, which tracks the motion of the gymnast. The sensor 107 may be fixed relative to the ground or movable such as mounted on a piece of equipment or on the head or the shoulders of the gymnast. When the sensor 107 detects a probability for the occurrence of a fall or dangerous landing, it sends a triggering signal to the triggering and control unit 108, which would in turn send an appropriate signal to the actuation mechanism 109 to retract the retractable cover 106. The landing pit 103 is therefore exposed and the gymnast would safely land inside the pit filled with the filling material 105. The triggering and control unit 108 is preferably equipped with a programmable microprocessor or a personal computer, which would allow for an operator to program the unit or use one of the stored programs to affect the desired operation of the system. For example, when the objective is to land in the pit 103 from the start, the sensor signal indicating that the gymnast has mounted the double bar, high bar or the ring is used to trigger the triggering and control unit 108 to affect the retraction of the pit top 106 by the actuation mechanism 109.

The sensory component 107 preferably contains redundancy to minimize the chances for a faulty action, particularly, the faulty action corresponding to not triggering the deployment mechanism when a dangerous falling or landing situation has arisen. To minimize the chances of such an event occurring, and since a trainer, a coach or an observer is almost always required to be present during training and competitions, a triggering signal that is generated by the trained observer is preferably one of the redundant sensory signals. The triggering mechanism is preferably constructed with a processor that is readily programmed to accept different sensory inputs and related parameters. The control unit 108 may also handle such processing requirements.

The sensor 107 is preferably a vision system with appropriately developed software to detect the possibility of a fall or dangerous landing. Such software is well known in the art of computer vision and can include detecting an improper trajectory of the gymnast or an improper orientation of the gymnast relative to a model or range of models. Such software can calculate a likelihood of a fall or dangerous landing (each or both of which is referred to hereinafter as an unintended fall) and assign the same a numerical value. The actuation mechanism 109 can be retracted in the event that the numeral value is greater than a predetermined threshold, signifying that the occurrence of an unintended fall is likely. In another embodiment of the present invention, a trained observer, such as a trainer or a coach can generate the triggering signal.

The retractable pit top or cover 106 can be constructed with one or more pieces of retractable pit cover components. The pit top 106 is preferably constructed with as many pieces as possible. The main reasons for having several smaller covering pieces is to achieve faster retraction. The covering pieces are also preferably arranged such that during the retraction process, the uncovering is initiated from around the region over which the gymnast would most probably fall during an accidental fall or landing in a dangerous manner, and proceed to complete the top cover retraction process. Such a pit top cover 106 can be constructed with two or more pieces that are retracted individually to minimize the required retraction time. FIG. 4, illustrates a top view of a six-piece retracting pit top cover where each individual piece is designated by reference numeral 110. Each of the individual pieces 110 can retract in a direction 111 that is away from where the gymnast is likely to fall. Reference numeral 112 illustrates an individual piece 110 tat has been retracted in the direction 111. Although, only one such piece is shown retracted, it is assumed that all such pieces retract to provide an opening sufficient for the gymnast to safely fall into the pit 103.

In the case of a parallel bars apparatus, the retractable cover 106 may be disposed in an area between the bars where the gymnast would not land but is likely to fall if such a fall occurred. Therefore, the retractable cover 106 may pulled away immediately following a successful mounting by the gymnast. The pit 103 would therefore protect the gymnast from an unintended fall and would not interfere with a landing since the gymnast would not land in the area of the retractable cover. Of course, the retractable cover 106 can be disposed in an area where the gymnast also lands and is only retracted if an unintended fall was likely to occur (either by detection from the sensor 107 or by a manual indication from a third party observer).

The retractable cover 106 may be left open to expose the pit 103 during practice, therefore, there is no need to have a separate pit. The retractable cover 106 can be telescopic, such that some sections thereof fit within other sections when retracted. The retractable cover 106 should open such that if the gymnast falls while it is opening, it would still cushion the fall of the gymnast.

A major advantage of the disclosed safety apparatus is that it can be used for athletes of various skills, from beginners to the highly skilled, noting that accidents also happen with the highly skilled athletes. Unlike helmets, the deployed safety net does not interfere with the athlete's routine, while protecting the athlete from any type of dangerous fall situations.

While there has been shown and described what is considered to be preferred embodiments of the invention, it will, of course, be understood that various modifications and changes in form or detail could readily be made without departing from the spirit of the invention. It is therefore intended that the invention be not limited to the exact forms described and illustrated, but should be constructed to cover all modifications that may fall within the scope of the appended claims.

Classifications
U.S. Classification482/15
International ClassificationA63B6/02, A63B5/00, A63K3/04
Cooperative ClassificationA63B6/02, A63B2208/12
European ClassificationA63B6/02
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 6, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: OMNITEK PARTNERS LLC, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:RASTEGAR, JAHANGIR S.;SPINELLI, THOMAS;REEL/FRAME:016046/0040
Effective date: 20041107