Patent application title: Sports implement grip training device
Allen Craig Webb (George Town, BS)
IPC8 Class: AA63B6900FI
Class name: Golf hand on grip positioning aid or grip indicator with electrical sensor or electrical indicator
Publication date: 2011-09-01
Patent application number: 20110212790
A swing teaching aid in the form of a sleeve that slips over a user's
finger for use with various sport implements with handles that are
gripped with the hands, e.g., a tennis racket, a golf dub, a baseball
bat, and a hockey stick that detects when excessive grip pressure is
exerted by a user and audibly signals to the user that the implement is
being gripped too tightly.
1. A grip pressure training device for teaching the correct swing of a
sport implement comprising a finger sleeve.
2. The finger sleeve device of claim 1 comprising: at least one pressure sensor means, each said sensor operative to transmit an electronic signal when a predetermined pressure threshold is exceeded, a microprocessor, said microprocessor connected to each said pressure sensor, said microprocessor operative to measure the grip pressure exerted on said pressure sensor, receive the electronic signal transmitted by the pressure sensor, process said electronic signal, and transmit a trigger signal, a sound module, said sound module on a board and connected to said microprocessor, said sound module operative to receive said trigger signal and deliver an audible sound to a user, a power source, each of said pressure sensor and sound module operatively connected to receive power from said power source, a plurality of wires, said wires configured to operatively connect said sensors, said sound module, and said power source, and a flexible sleeve housing to encase said pressure sensor, said sound module, said microprocessor, said board, and said power source.
3. The pressure sensor means of claim 2 wherein the pressure sensor is selected from the group consisting of snap-disc pressure sensors, load cells, force sensors, and digital sensor signal processors.
4. The pressure sensor means of claim 2 wherein the pressure sensor is a snap-disc pressure sensor.
5. The power source of claim 2 wherein the power source is a battery.
6. The battery as recited in claim 4 wherein the battery is a solar cell.
7. The flexible sleeve as recited in claim 2 wherein the housing is selected from the group consisting of synthetic rubbers and polymers.
8. The flexible sleeve as recited in claim 2 wherein the housing is cylindrical in shape.
9. The flexible sleeve as recited in claim 2 wherein the housing is neoprene.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
 This application is a continuation-in-part of a co-pending commonly assigned application Ser. No. 11/479,189 filed Jul. 3, 2006, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 This invention is directed to a swing teaching device, in general, for various sport implements with handles that are gripped with the hands, e.g., tennis racket, golf club, baseball bat, and hockey stick, and, in particular, to such a training device in the form of a finger sleeve which incorporates devices for detecting gripping pressure and signaling to a user when the implement is being gripped too tightly.
 Proper swing performance in sports utilizing implements with handles, e.g., tennis, golf, baseball, and racquetball, can be adversely affected if excessive grip pressure is used in holding and swinging the implement. Despite correct placement of the hands on the handle, if the implement is gripped too tightly, i.e., excessive hand pressure is applied; the weight of the implement cannot be felt or sensed contributing to inconsistent tempo and rhythm in the swing. Master teachers of golf, for instance, instruct that to obtain the correct grip pressure a player must be able to distinguish when excessive grip pressure is applied. If the grip is too tight a player will not be able to feel the clubhead of the golf club throughout the entire swing. The player thus loses awareness of the clubhead actually striking the ball and propelling it to the target. Similarly, in tennis, if the racket is held too tightly, the swing will become rushed and uneven. With a looser grip of the racket, the swing will be smooth and promote better contact with the ball.
 One way of correcting difficulties with grip pressure is to employ the use of training aids that encourage a relaxed grip. With repeated practice and reinforcement of proper technique through feedback from such aids, a user can "memorize" or feel the appropriate grip pressure for swinging a sports implement.
 Conventional designs aimed at solving the aforementioned problems have been configured, including training aids utilizing (i) pressure sensors and feedback mechanisms attached or embedded in gloves, e.g., golf gloves, or (ii) pressure sensors and feedback mechanisms attached onto the handle of sports implements where the hands are typically placed. Such prior designs have incorporated devices attached to gloves which alert a user of excessive grip pressure by thrusting tacks, for example, into the fingers of the user to encourage the use of less grip pressure. Other designs using gloves incorporate mechanical or electronic pressure sensors which signal that excessive grip pressure is being used by communicating visual or audio feedback to the user. Still other training aid devices measure and record the grip pressure and related movements of expert users of an implement, transfer the implement to a novice user, and provide a feedback signal to the novice user when their grip pressure and related movements deviate from that of an expert user.
 Such designs and devices are restricted to being used with a glove or must be specially imbedded into the grip end of a sport implement handle. Furthermore, the locations on the hand of the user or handle of an implement where such devices may be placed are fixed. The present invention, however, allows a user to place a grip pressure monitoring device on any one of the user's hands as well as a plurality of fingers and thumbs in a variety of positions as may suited to the user. The novelty and utility of the present invention may be better recognized by comparison to the prior art as discussed below.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,488,726 discusses a sports practice glove for use with a club, racket, bat or other item of sports equipment which has a handle to be gripped. The glove has a pressure operated switch on each finger and on the thumb of the glove and on the palm area of the glove. The switches which are rubber pad pressure operated switches of the normally dosed kind are connected to a battery operated alarm circuit having an audible alarm. When used in accordance with the invention, if the club is improperly gripped, i.e., not gripped tight enough, the pressure on one or more switches will fall below a predetermined threshold and an alarm will be actuated. Such a device, however, is not useful for determining if the grip pressure applied to the club is excessive.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,776,595 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,873,788 discuss the use of a grip glove where exceptional pressure between the finger and the club causes an indicator element to be thrust into the finger thereby causing a sharp sensation in the finger to indicate that the exceptional pressure has taken place, and a glove which includes a number of semi-sharp, tack-like units attached to the glove at pressure points where the user typically tends to grip the equipment too tightly that extend toward the user's hand and are sufficiently sharp to cause discomfort when pressed firmly against the palm or fingers, respectively. In each aforementioned glove design, the discomfort serves as direct biofeedback to the user, indicating that his or her grip is too tight and should be relaxed. Despite the aforementioned utility, these inventions require that pain be inflicted upon a user in order to train a proper grip pressure.
 U.S. Pat. No. 6,033,370 describes a capacitive sensor that may be incorporated in a glove, grip end, or other housing means that provides a signal in response to pressure. However, the invention is generally directed to the measurement of impact forces.
 U.S. Pat. No. 6,772,442 relates to a novel golf glove and is characterized in that on the inside surface of the thumb of the glove, i.e. the surface that bears against the club shaft when playing, there is a pressure sensor that interacts with an acoustic signal transmitter or is part of an acoustic signal transmitter that delivers an acoustic signal when a predetermined trigger force acting on the sensor is exceeded. Where the grip pressure is applied and excessive such as at the fingers, and not the thumb, the invention is ineffective particularly in the use of sport implements such as a tennis racket.
 Accordingly, the need remains for a simple, cost-effective grip pressure training device that can be used on one or more fingers, including the thumb and be disposed at any position along the length of a finger while also being useable for training in various sports many of which typically do not use gloves.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 A grip pressure teaching aid according to the present invention provides training with respect to grip pressure when used as a swing teaching device for various sports, e.g., tennis, racquetball, golf, and baseball. Such a device, a finger sleeve, having the features of the present invention, includes (i) a pressure sensor for detecting gripping pressure, (ii) a sound module for receiving the pressure sensor signal, and for providing an audio alert to a user when an implement is being gripped too tightly, (iii) a microprocessor board for providing signal logic to the sound module and for assembling the battery and the sound module, (iv) a power source, such as a battery or solar cell, for providing power to the pressure sensor and sound module, (v) wires for operatively connecting the sensor, sound module and power source, and (vi) a flexible cylindrically shaped material for housing the sensor, sound module, board, battery, and wires fashioned to slip over a user's finger. In one embodiment of the present invention the finger sleeve is constructed of neoprene which encapsulates an assembly comprising a pressure sensor, sound module, and battery which slips over a user's finger or thumb. Advantageously, multiple swing teaching devices in the configuration of a finger sleeve allows a user to select any combination of fingers and/or thumb on one or both hands to train the grip pressure used in holding or swinging an implement.
 According to a more particular aspect of the invention, one or more finger sleeve devices can be used to teach proper grip pressure in the tennis swing wherein a glove, as discussed in the prior art, is not used when holding a tennis racket. A user will hear an audible sound if too much force is applied to one or more pressure sensors therein a finger sleeve device when gripping or swinging the tennis racket.
 In another aspect wherein both hands are actively involved in gripping and swinging a sport implement, e.g., a golf club and a baseball bat, interaction between both hands and digits may result in multiple pressure points between the hands and the sport implement. Unlike the prior art, the present invention, allows users to pinpoint and train specific grip pressure problem areas by using a plurality of finger sleeve devices strategically placed on different fingers, thumbs, and hands.
 The above summary does not include an exhaustive list of all aspects of the present invention. Indeed, the inventor contemplates that the invention includes all devices and methods that can be practiced from all suitable combinations of the various aspects summarized above, as well as those disclosed in the detailed description below and particularly pointed out in the claims. Such combinations have particular advantages not specifically recited in the above summary.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a finger sleeve device used to teach proper grip pressure when holding and swinging a sport implement, in accordance with various aspects of the present invention.
 FIG. 2 is a perspective fold-out view of the finger sleeve device of FIG. 1, showing a pressure sensor, a sound module, microprocessor board, and a battery each connected by wires and attached onto the wall of a flexible fabric sleeve.
 FIG. 3A through 3C are perspective views of a finger sleeve device being worn by a user, in accordance with various aspects of the present invention.
 FIG. 4A and 4B are perspective views of a finger sleeve device being worn by a user while holding a tennis racket and a golf club, respectively, in accordance with various aspects of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS
 A finger sleeve device according to various aspects of the present invention provides numerous benefits, notably a simple, low-cost swing teaching aid that audibly alerts a user if the grip pressure on a sport implement such as a tennis racket or golf club is too tight. An advantageous combination of a pressure sensor and a sound module, connected to a battery power source, all encapsulated in a cylindrical flexible sleeve, allows a user to train a proper grip pressure for a variety of sports utilizing swinging implements, e.g., tennis rackets, baseball bats, and golf dubs. As may be better understood with reference to FIG. 1 and FIG. 2, for example, a finger sleeve device 100 comprises a pressure sensor 101, preferably a snap-disc pressure sensor; a sound module 102; a battery 103; wires 104a and 104b; a microprocessor board 105; and a flexible fabric, preferably neoprene 201.
 In this embodiment a battery 103 and sound module 102 are assembled onto a microprocessor board using standard circuit interconnects. A snap-disc pressure sensor 101 is connected to the sound module 102 by wire 104a and to the battery 103 by wire 104b, respectively. The battery 103 provides power to the snap-disc pressure sensor 101 and the sound module 102, and microprocessor circuit. Referring to FIG. 2, the microprocessor board 105, comprising the battery 103 and the sound module 102, and the snap-disc sensor 101 are affixed to the flexible fabric 201 in any suitable fashion, such as, but not limited to, by adhesive, by sewing or the like. The flexible fabric 201 comprising the microprocessor board 105, the battery 103, the sound module 102, and the pressure sensor 101 is, preferably, configured in the form of a sleeve as depicted in FIG. 1 by any suitable means, such as, but not limited to, by adhesive, by sewing or the like.
 A user is able to identify and train specific areas where her grip holds or swings a sport implement. FIGS. 3A thru 3C illustrate embodiments of the present invention wherein a finger sleeve device 100 is placed on a thumb--as shown, in this instance the left hand thumb--(FIG. 3A); on two fingers of one hand--as shown in this example, the right hand--(FIG. 3B); or on a thumb and a finger of any or both hands (FIG. 3C). Other combinations for locating a finger sleeve device are possible and are not limited by the specific examples cited herein.
 The snap-disc pressure sensor 101 of finger sleeve device 100 is, preferably, located in a position to contact the palm side of a user's finger or thumb between the handle of a sport implement, for example the handle of a tennis racket 301, and the palm-side grip of the user's hand as illustrated in FIG. 4A. It is, of course, possible that the sensor 101 may be attached in different locations therein a finger sleeve device 100. In addition, the number of pressure sensors 101 can vary depending upon the complexity of the training system desired. It is also possible to use pressure sensors of a type other than a snap-disc sensor, including commonly known as load cells, force sensors, and various digital sensor signal processors.
 In holding or swinging a sport implement such as a tennis racket 301 or golf club 401, for example, if the grip pressure exerted by the user of said implement exceeds the pressure threshold of the pressure sensor 101 the pressure sensor 101 generates a signal that is transmitted via wire 104a to the sound module 102 which in turn emits an audible sound.
 With reference to FIG. 4B, an important aspect of the present invention includes the advantageous use of a plurality of finger sleeves devices 100 as a swing teaching aid. Exemplary system 400 illustrates for example the use of two finger sleeve devices 100 wherein a user grips a golf club 401 using both hands. In this configuration each finger sleeve device 100 is operable to inform the user if either the right hand, left hand, or both hands have exceeded the grip pressure threshold. Exemplary system 400 also illustrates that a finger sleeve device 100 may be used with a golf glove 402 by sliding said finger sleeve device 100 over one or more fingers of a gloved hand.
 No one embodiment disclosed herein is essential to the practice of another unless indicated as such. Indeed, the invention, as supported by the disclosure above and in the originally filed claims, includes all systems and methods that can be practiced from all suitable combinations of the various aspects disclosed, and all suitable combinations of the exemplary elements listed. Such combinations have particular advantages, including advantages not specifically recited herein.
 Alterations and permutations of the preferred embodiments will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon a reading of the specification and a study of the drawings. For example, finger sleeve devices according to various aspects of the invention can include solar powered battery sources. In addition, a finger sleeve device can be used in training motor skills of user undergoing physical therapy or the like.
 Accordingly, none of the disclosure of the preferred embodiments defines or constrains the invention. Rather, the issued claims variously define the invention. Each variation of the invention is limited only by the recited limitations of its respective claim, and equivalents thereof, without limitation by other terms not present in the claim. For example, claims that do not call for any exact number of elements in a plurality are not limited to any specific configuration or number.
 In addition, aspects of the invention are particularly pointed out below using terminology that the inventor regards as having its broadest reasonable interpretation. The words "comprising," "including," and "having" are intended as open-ended terminology, with the same meaning as if the phrase "at least" were appended after each instance thereof. A clause using the term "whereby" merely states the result of the limitations in any claim in which it may appear and does not set forth an additional limitation therein. The conjunction "or" between alternative elements means "and/or," and thus does not imply that the elements are mutually exclusive unless context or a specific statement indicates otherwise. It is understood that the description herein is intended to be illustrative only and is not intended to be limitative. Rather, the scope of the invention described herein is limited only by the claims appended hereto.