US 3855631 A
An inflatable protective neck collar for a football player or the like. The collar extends circumferentially about the player's neck to provide an air cushion between his head and shoulders. Blows to the head and neck are cushioned by the collar to protect the wearer against injury due to extreme neck flexion in any direction.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 1191 Ettinger I v Dec. 24, 1974 [5 PROTECTIVE NECK COLLAR 2,994,534 8/1961 Davis et al 2 2 x 75] Inventor: Donald N. Ettinger, Saint Louis, MO. 3,497,872 3/1970  Assignee: Hit-Away, Inc., Indianapolis, Ind. 37659219 10/1973  Filed: 1974 Primary ExaminerAlfred R. Guest  Appl. N0.: 435,840 Attorney, Agent, or FirmTrask, Jenkins & Hanley Related US. Application Data  Continuation-impart of Ser. No. 397,731, Sept. 17, ' ABSTRACT 1973, abandoned.
An inflatable protective neck collar for a football  US. Cl. 2/2 player or the likeflhe collar extends circumferentially  Int. Cl A4111 13/00 about the players neck to provide an air cushion bel Field of Search 16- 20, 75, tween his head and shoulders. Blows to the head and 1 8/ neck are cushioned by the collar to protect the wearer against injury due to extreme neck flexion in any di-  References Cited rection.
UNITED STATES PATENTS 8 C 5 D 1,252,173 l/l9l8 Pritchard 128/1310. 20 rawmg gums PROTECTIVE NECK COLLAR BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This application is a continuation-in-part of copending application Ser. No. 397,731, filed Sept. 17, 1973 now abandoned.
This invention relates to a protective neck collar for a football player or the like, and more particularly to an inflatable circumferential neck collar which is removably worn about a players neck in a manner to reduce injuries due to extreme neck flexion and blows to the neck.
Anyone who has ever played or watched football or any other body contact sport is well aware of the everpresent danger of injury to players. From the early days of football to the present time, injuries have ocurred all too frequently. Unfortunately, the need for improved equipment often becomes known only after serious injuries to players have occurred.
In the early days of football little, if any, protective equipment was used by the participants. Over the years, however, protective equipment such as helmets, shoulder pads, thigh pads, and face guards have been introduced and their use has become mandatory. Moreover, football protective gear is continually being improved. For example, the close fitting aviator" type leather helmet of the early days has gradually evolved into the padded, plastic helmet of today which is capable of withstanding heavy blows. In addition, present day helmets are equipped with protective face guards which serve to further reduce injuries. Shoulder pads, too, have evolved from the generally flat, form-fitting padding of the past, to the padded plastic, so-called cantilever pads of today which support at least part of the pads away from the wearers shoulders to better absorb and diffuse the heavy blows to which they are subjected.
Neck injuries, however, continue to plague football players. This is due at least in part to the fact that advancements in head and shoulder protective equipment have tended to give a player a feeling of security. In fact, this equipment protects a players head and shoulder areas so well that many players are now using these portions of their anatomy as weapons. Modern head and shoulder protective equipment does not, however,
shield or protect the neck area, and the unfortunate result is an ever-increasing occurrence of serious neck injuries due primarily to extreme flexing or stretching of the cervical spine and neck muscles, and also to the multiplicity of direct punches and blows to the neck area which are an inherent part of the violent game of football.
The sponge neck collar is the most commonly used football neck protective device, and that collar normally comprises a horseshoe-shaped roll of sponge rubber which is worn around the rear and the sides of a players neck. The sponge collar is kept in place by tying it with shoelaces to the players shoulder pads in both the front and rear, and the collar serves as a stopgap between the players head and shoulders to prevent flexing or stretching of the neck beyond a predetermined position. In this manner, injuries due to extreme flexion to the rear or to either side may be reduced.
Unfortunately, the conventional sponge collar does not prevent or reduce neck injuries caused when a players head is violently rammed forwardly and downwardly into his chest, as often happens during a headon tackle. And the collar does not protect against direct blows to the frontal area of the neck. Moreover, because the collar prevents flexing movement beyond a predetermined position, it is often difficult or impossible for a player such as a lineman to wear a sponge collar and still be able to get his head back and up in order to see his opponent. See US. Pat. Nos. 3,189,917 and 3,497,872. For this reason, many coaches do not allow their players to wear one of these collars until after they have received an injury. This, in effect, relegates the conventional sponge collar to a use of preventing aggravation of existing neck injuries rather than preventing the injuries themselves. Clearly there fore, the sponge collar is an unsatisfactory solution to the persisting neck injury problem.
I Various other neck protectors have been developed, and some of these are designed to protect a player against injury caused by extreme forward and downward movement of the neck. See, for example, US. Pat. No. 3,765,029. While some of these protectors do not greatly restrict a players head and neck mobility, they are of limited usefulness since they do not protect against extreme neck flexion in all directions.
The present invention overcomes the above mentioned problems and deficiencies by providing a protective neck collar which helps prevent neck injuries caused by extreme flexing or stretching of the neck in any direction, and which does not restrict a players normal head and neck movements. Moreover, the present invention provides a neck collar which does not substantially add to the weight or bulkiness of a players protective equipment, and is both structurally simple and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In accordance with the invention, an inflatable neck collar is provided which fits circumferentially about a players neck to form an air cushion between his head and shoulders. When partially inflated, the collar has a size and shape effective to absorb and diffuse sharp blows to the head and neck area and thereby prevent extreme flexing and stretching of the neck in all directions. The players normal head and neck movements are unimpeded as the collar compresses slightly to accommodate such normal movements.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The accompanying drawings illustrate the invention. In such drawings:
FIG. 1 is a front elevation of a football player wearing a protective neck collar embodying the invention;
FIG. 2 is an enlarged plan view of a neck collar made in accordance with this invention with portions thereof cut away;
FIG. 3 is a vertical section taken on the line 3-3 of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a side elevation of a player wearing the collar of FIG. 1; and
FIG. 5 is a side elevation similar to FIG. 4, but with the player also wearing a protective helmet.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT A protective neck collar embodying this invention is shown in FIG. 1 and generally comprises a circumferentially extending collar 10 which fits about a players neck.
The protective collar is formed of a strong, lightweight, elastomeric or rubber-based material and is rotationally molded into an annular-shaped tube, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. The collar is sufficiently resilient that it can be pulled over the wearers head and regain its original circumference and shape about the wearers neck.
A soft air valve 12, formed of gum rubber or a like substance, is disposed at or near the outer periphery of the collar 10 to permit the collar to be selectively inflated and deflated. Because of the inherent resiliency of the collar, inflation thereof can be accomplished either before or after the collar is placed about the wearers neck. A hypodermic needle (not shown) is inserted through the gum valve 12 and a predetermined amount of air blown through the needle to inflate the collar. When the needle is withdrawn from the gum valve, the valve will self-seal and the collar will remain inflated until the needle is re-inserted through the valve for the purpose of bleeding air from the collar. Alternatively, the collar can be equipped with a conventional basketball-type self-sealing valve to permit selective inflation and deflation of the collar.
The size and shape of the collar is such that the inside circumference thereof is slightly larger than that of the wearers neck, say by about one-half to three inches. This permits the collar to fit closely yet comfortably about the wearers neck without affecting the wearers normal side-to-side neck movement. The collar can be manufactured in a variety of sizes, each having a different inside circumference to assure that one size will fit a given user.
The collar is shaped from front to rear to generally correspond to the shape of the wearers neck and shoulders. To this end, the cross-sectional circumference of the collar varies from a large portion 14 at the back of the players neck to a relatively smaller portion 16 in the front. In practice, the actual dimensions depend upon the size of the player, but normally the cross-sectional circumference tapers from about 5 inches at the back of the neck to about 3 inches in the front.
As shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, the collar is desirably used in conjunction with protective shoulder gear such as a set of football shoulder pads 18. Typically, the pads are formed of complementary halves l9 and 20 which are flexibly joined together at their backsides by webbing (not shown) and in the front by laces 22. Together, the halves l9 and 20 form an opening 24 through which the players head extends, with the edges of the opening generally following the contour of the players neck and shoulders from front to rear. The pads 18 therefore conveniently form a supporting surface upon which the collar can be placed.
After the collar is pulled over the players head, the smaller portion 14 is centered in the front under the chin. Desirably, the collar is tied as by a spring 26 to the laces 22 on the front of the shoulder pads 18. This secures the collar against unwanted displacement about the players neck and retains the smaller portion 14 under the chin to assure that the collar will always be positioned to generally fit the contour of the pads 18 from front to rear. The string 30 also serves to pull the front of the collar downwardly a short distance, as shown in FIG. 4 to cause the front of the collar to more closely fit the sloping frontal contour of the pads. Moreover, this increases the clearance between I the players chin and the upper front surface of the collar to facilitate normal up and down head movement. As shown in FIG. 5, when the player puts on a protective helmet 28 of the type typically used in football, the lower rear edge 30 of the helmet bears against the upper rear surface of the collar. In effect, the helmet pushes the larger portion 26 of the collar downwardly a short distance to cause the rear portion of the collar to substantially fill the gap between the helmet 28 and the pads 18, and to also generally conform to the sloping contour of the backside of the pads.
When in place, the collar provides an air cushion encircling the wearers neck atop his shoulder pads and substantially filling the previously unprotected gap between the head and shoulders. The collar is inflated to an extent such that normal head and neck movements are unimpeded while sharp blows to the head and neck are effectively absorbed and diffused. For example, the collar compresses slightly with little effort to accommodate normal side-to-side and up-down head and neck movement such as is required of an athlete during competition. This permits a player such as a football lineman to get his head back and up to see his opponent as his helmet or head bears against and slightly compresses the air in the collar. However, when a player re ceives a sharp blow to the head or neck as is often the case in football during a head-on tackle, his head will naturally move with the blow and subject the player to possible injury due to extreme neck flexion. The neck collar of this invention effectively protects against such extreme neck flexion in all directions by absorbing and diffusing the blow as the players head pinches the collar between his head and shoulders. Additionally, the collar serves to pad the neck area against direct blows to provide even greater protection against neck injury.
The protective neck collar of this invention is capable of repeatedly absorbing and dissipating the sharp blows to the head and neck which could otherwise cause severe injury. This collar is compatible with a players conventional protective armor and adds substantially no weight thereto. Moreover, while this inflatable collar has been described for use primarily by a football player, the collar can be used by any athlete involved in a contact sport and desiring circumferential protection against extreme neck flexion.
1. A protective neck collar for use in conjunction with protective athletic shoulder gear which has a head opening formed therethrough, comprising an inflatable annular tube of a pliable material adapted to extend circumferentially about a players neck between the protective shoulder gear and the players head, and means for connecting said tube to the protective shoulder gear to prevent displacement of said tube about the players neck, the size and shape of said tube being such that said tube generally conforms to the front to rear contour of the head opening in the protective shoulder gear and substantially fills the gap between the players protective shoulder gear and head, said tube forming an air cushion which when inflated encircles the players neck and compresses slightly with little effort to accommodate normal head and neck movements, and is pinched between the players head and protective shoulder gear upon sharp blows to the head and neck to absorb said blows and prevent injury due to extreme neck flexion in any direction.
2. A protective neck collar as set forth in claim 1 wherein said tube is stretchable to be pulled over the players head and regain its original size and shape when about the players neck and inflated.
3. A protective neck collar as set forth in claim 1 wherein said tube has a generally circular cross section, and the cross-sectional circumference of said tube tapers from about 5 inches at the back of the players neck to about 3 inches in the front.
4. A protective neck collar as set forth in claim 1 wherein the cross section of said tube tapers from a large portion at the back of the players neck to a relatively smaller portion in the front.
5. A protective neck collar as set forth in claim 1 wherein said means for connecting said tube to the protective shoulder gear is connected to the portion of said tube at the front of the players neck, said means being operative to pull downwardly on said portion to cause said tube to closely fit the frontal contour of the shoulder protective gear.
6. A protective neck collar for use in conjunction with protective athletic head gear and protective athletic shoulder gear having a head opening formed therethrough, comprising an inflatable annular tube of a pliable material and a generally circular cross section adapted to extend circumferentially about a players neck between the shoulder gear and the players head and head gear, said tube being stretchable to be pulled over the players head and to regain its original shape about the players neck, and means for connecting said tube to the shoulder gear to prevent displacement of said tube about the players neck, said tube having a cross section tapering from a large portion at the back of the players neck to a relatively smaller portion in the front to generally conform when inflated to the front to rear contour of the head opening in the shoulder gear and to substantially fill the gap between the players shoulder gear and his head and head gear, said tube forming an air cushion which encircles the players neck and compresses slightly with little effort upon engagement with the players head and head gear during normal head and neck movements to accommodate said normal movements, and is pinched between the players shoulder gear and his head and head gear upon sharp blows to the head and neck to absorb said blows and prevent injury due to extreme neck flexion in any direction.
7. A protective neck collar as set forth in claim 6 wherein said means for connecting said tube to the protective shoulder gear is connected to the relatively smaller portion of said tube at the front of the players neck, said means being operative to pull downwardly on said smaller portion to cause said tube to closely fit the frontal contour of the shoulder protective gear.
8. A protective neck collar as set forth in claim 6 wherein the cross-sectional circumference of said tube tapers from about 5 inches at the back of the players neck to about 3 inches in the front.
Dated December 24, 1974 Inventor(s) .lttest:
RUTH C. I-IASON attesting, Qfiicer "ORM PO-105O (10-69) Donald N. Ettinger It is certified that error appears in the above-identified patent and that said Letters Patent are hereby corrected as shown below:
Column 1, line 6, add a comma after "1973" Column 3, line 56, change "14'' to --l6--;
Column 4, line 2, start new paragraph with "As".
In the drawings, sheet 1, Fig. l, the reference numeral 22 should be applied to the laces tying together the front of the complementary halves 19 and 20 of the shoulder pads 18.
Signed and sealed this 3th day of April 1975.
57, change "spring" to --string--;
60, change "14" to --l6--;
63, change "30" to --22---.
7, change "26" to -l4--.
C. PLARSI-IALL DANN Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks I uscoMM-oc 6O376-P69 US. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 1 0-36'3!