Patent application title: Ball-deflecting leg guard
Sam Joseph Locicero (San Clemente, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AA41D1306FI
Class name: Guard or protector leg knee pads or rests
Publication date: 2013-01-10
Patent application number: 20130007938
A leg guard includes a base and a pad assembly. The base is made of a
rigid material, and includes a shin portion having a convex outer
surface. The pad assembly includes a pad having a first concave surface
adapted to engage the convex outer surface of the shin guard, and a
second non-concave surface opposite the first surface.
1. A leg guard comprising: a) a base comprised of a rigid material, the
base comprising a shin portion having a convex outer surface, and b) a
pad assembly, the pad assembly comprising a pad having (i) a first
concave surface adapted to engage the convex outer surface of the shin
guard and (ii) a second non-concave surface opposite the first surface.
2. The leg guard of claim 1 wherein the pad is releasably secured to the base.
3. The leg guard of claim 1 wherein the pad is non-releasably secured to the base.
4. The leg guard of claim 1 wherein the pad is unitary with the base.
5. The leg guard of claim 1 wherein the base further comprises a knee portion, the knee portion having a convex outer surface, and wherein the pad assembly further comprises a pad having a first concave surface adapted to engage the convex outer surface of the knee portion.
6. The leg guard of claim 1 wherein the non-convex surface has a substantially flat cross-section.
7. The leg guard of claim 1 wherein the non-convex surface has a concave cross-section.
8. The leg guard of claim 7 wherein the concave cross-section is asymmetric.
9. The leg guard of claim 1 wherein the pad is bounded by first and second side surfaces, and wherein the pad comprises a stiffener adjacent at least a portion of at least one of the first and second side surfaces.
10. The leg guard of claim 1 further comprising at least one cap.
11. A pad assembly adapted to engage a leg guard, the leg guard comprising a shin portion, the pad assembly comprising a pad having (i) a first concave surface adapted to engage the convex outer surface of the shin guard and (ii) a second non-concave surface opposite the first surface.
This application is based on U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No.
61/571,126, filed Jun. 20, 2011, the entire disclosure of which is
incorporated herein by reference.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to safety equipment for use in ball games such as baseball or softball. More particularly, the present invention relates to a leg guard that affords improved protection to wearers thereof and to players interacting with the wearers, and that reduces unwanted ball deflection.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Catchers in the games of baseball and softball usually don protective gear on their bodies, including chest protectors, face masks, and leg guards, in order to prevent injury to the catchers due to impacts from missed balls or from opposing players attempting to score. Leg guards typically include a shin portion, an ankle or instep portion and/or a foot portion at a lower end of the shin portion, and a knee portion at an upper end of the shin portion. The various portions of the leg guards typically comprise a rigid outer layer and an inner padded layer.
 Known leg guards provide adequate protection to the catcher's legs from impact injuries. However, they do not provide, nor are they intended to provide, protection to other players who may collide with the catcher during play. As a result of such collisions, the players may suffer pain or injury due to the impact with the rigid elements of the leg guards.
 Additionally, the rigidity of the materials used in known leg guards, together with the curvature of the various portions of the leg guards, create an additional problem. Balls that strike the curved portions of the leg guards tend to scatter at high velocity and in random directions. This can allow opposing runners to advance or score, especially in games played by young or inexperienced players.
 A need exists for an improved leg guard that affords protection to players who may collide with catchers wearing such leg guards. A need also exists for an improved leg guard that reduces the scatter angle and/or scatter velocity of balls that strike surfaces thereof.
SUMMARY OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, there is provided a leg guard that includes a base and a pad assembly. The base is made of a rigid material, and includes a shin portion having a convex outer surface. The pad assembly includes a pad having a first concave surface adapted to engage the convex outer surface of the shin guard, and a second non-concave surface opposite the first surface.
 According to particular embodiments, the pad of the pad assembly is releasably secured to the base. According to other particular embodiments, the pad is non-releasably secured to the base. According to still other particular embodiments, the pad is formed as a unitary structure with the base.
 According to still other particular embodiments, the base further includes a knee portion that has a convex outer surface. In these embodiments, the pad assembly further includes a pad having a first concave surface adapted to engage the convex outer surface of the knee portion.
 The non-convex surface of the pad, in certain particular embodiments, has a substantially flat cross-section. In other particular embodiments, the non-convex surface has a concave cross-section. In very particular embodiments, such concave cross-sections are asymmetric.
 For additional durability, in particular embodiments, the pad is bounded by first and second side surfaces, and the pad includes a stiffener adjacent at least a portion of at least one of the first and second side surfaces.
 In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a pad assembly adapted to engage a leg guard, the leg guard having a shin portion. The pad assembly includes a pad having a first concave surface adapted to engage the convex outer surface of the shin guard, and a second non-concave surface opposite the first surface.
 Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description. It is to be understood, however, that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating preferred embodiments of the present invention, are given by way of illustration and not limitation. Many changes and modifications within the scope of the present invention may be made without departing from the spirit thereof, and the invention includes all such modifications.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The invention may be more readily understood by referring to the accompanying drawings in which
 FIG. 1 is a schematic drawing of a baseball catcher wearing a prior art leg guard,
 FIG. 2 is a perspective exploded view of a first embodiment of a leg guard according to the invention, in which connected pads are releasably secured to a base, the base including a plurality of elements including an element that conforms to a human shin (a shin portion) and an element that conforms to a human knee (a knee portion),
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 2 releasably secured to the base,
 FIGS. 4a-d are sectional views through shin portions of bases of embodiments of pads secured to the shin portions and having various configurations, including a flat outer surface (FIG. 4a), an asymmetric concave outer surface (FIG. 4b), a reinforced asymmetric concave outer surface (FIG. 4c), and a symmetric concave outer surface (FIG. 4d), and
 FIG. 5 is a sectional view through the shin portion of the base of an alternative embodiment of a pad secured to the shin portion, the pad having edges to which caps are secured.
 Like numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views of the drawings.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 Referring to FIG. 1, known leg guards 10 typically include shin portion 12 hingedly attached at a lower end to ankle (or instep) portion 14 and/or foot portion 16. Additionally, shin portion 12 is hingedly attached to knee portion 18. Knee portion 18 covers the knee cap of a catcher wearing leg guards 10. Knee portion 18, shin portion 12, ankle/instep portion 14, and foot portion 16 typically include a rigid outer layer, typically formed from a plastic material, and an inner padding layer (not shown).
 In FIGS. 2 and 3, a first embodiment of a leg guard 100 according to the invention includes base 110, which includes shin portion 120 having convex outer surface 121, knee portion 130 having convex outer surface 131, ankle portion 140, foot portion 150, and first and second thigh portions 160 and 170, respectively. Portions 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170 are preferably hingedly connected, for example by means of underlying pads (not shown) that are stitched together, connected by straps, or otherwise assembled. Connection of various portions of leg guards is well-known to all skilled artisans, and is described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 7,832,017, to Nascimento et al., which is incorporated herein in its entirety by reference. If desired, one or more of the foregoing elements can be omitted or combined; for example, first and second thigh portions 160, 170 can be used singly, or combined into a single large thigh portion.
 Leg guard 110 further includes pad assembly 180, including shin pad 182 that engages shin portion 120, and (as shown) optional knee pad 184 that engages knee portion 130. Shin pad 182 and knee pad 184 are connected together by flexible pad strap 186. Pads 182, 184 include a core 200 (FIGS. 4a-d) that in particular embodiments is comprised of a resilient material, for example a "memory foam" (i.e., visco-elastic polyurethane foam, or low-resilience polyurethane foam). Other resilient materials known to those skilled in the art can also be employed. Such embodiments tend to reduce the rebound of a ball from the pad after the balls strike the pad, and in particular as compared to the rebound from a leg guard not equipped with a pad as described herein. An additional benefit of such embodiments is that players who impact a catcher equipped with the inventive device are protected from direct impact with the underlying rigid base of the leg guard, and thus may experience fewer painful impacts and/or injuries resulting from collisions with rigid surfaces.
 Core 200, in alternative embodiments, is a composite structure comprising a plurality of layers or other sub-components, each of which can comprise, in more specific embodiments, the same or a different material. For example, core 200 in some embodiments can comprise a plurality of layers having different densities, stiffnesses, or other properties.
 Pads 182, 184 are bounded by outer surfaces 181, inner surfaces 183, side surfaces 185, top surfaces 187 and bottom surfaces 189. In the illustrated embodiment, inner surfaces 183 are configured to have a concave cross-section, such that the inner surfaces conform approximately to convex outer surfaces 121, 131 of shin portion 120 and knee portion 130, to which pads 182, 184, respectively, are to be secured. Outer surfaces 181 are configured to be non-convex. In the illustrated embodiment, outer surfaces 181 are configured to be substantially flat, or planar. Side surfaces 185, top surfaces 187 and bottom surfaces 189 can have any desired configuration.
 In particular embodiments, the resilient material is encased within a protective outer layer 202 (FIGS. 4a-d) formed from, e.g, a natural or synthetic fabric, such as canvas, nylon or other conventional materials. As shown, protective outer layer 202 can be disposed on at least a portion of one or more surfaces of pads 182, 184. If desired, the entire volume of pads 182, 184 can be completely encased within protective outer layer 202.
 As illustrated in FIG. 3, pads 182 and/or 184 of pad assembly 180 are secured, in certain embodiments, to shin portion 120 and knee portion 130, respectively, by releasable devices, for example (as illustrated), Velcro® patches 190, clasps 192, other releasable elements such as straps, snaps or other mechanical and/or adhesive elements, or combinations thereof. In alternative embodiments, pads 182 and/or 184 are permanently (non-releasably) secured to shin portion 120 and/or knee portion 130. In still other alternative embodiments, pad assembly 180 and base 110 comprise a unitary structure, i.e., they are manufactured as a single unit rather than a composite of two originally separate structures that are subsequently releasably or permanently secured together.
 Leg guard 110 is advantageously removably and adjustably attachable to the leg of a human user, such as a baseball catcher, by means of straps, including in particular examples upper shin strap 122, lower shin strap 124, knee strap 132, and thigh strap 162. Various buckles, snaps or other conventional elements are beneficially employed in order to adjust and secure the straps, as is well-known in the art.
 Pads 182, 184 can have various cross-sections, in order to achieve various desirable results. In FIG. 4a, pad 182 has the configuration illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3. Core 200 formed from a resilient material is enclosed by protective outer layer 202. Outer surface 181 is substantially flat or planar, as are side walls 185. Concave inner surface 183 is configured to conform substantially to convex outer surface 121 of shin portion 120. Pad 182 is secured to shin portion 120 by clasps 192. Velcro strips 190, 190a releasably engage to provide further releasable bonding between pad 182 and shin portion 120. This configuration serves to inhibit the recoil and scatter of balls that impact pad 182, and also help protect colliding players from painful contact with the rigid structure of shin portion 120.
 In FIG. 4b, pad 182 has an asymmetric concave cross-section, with outer side wall 185a having a width greater than inner side wall 185b, and with outer surface 181 having a concave configuration. This configuration serves to direct balls that may strake pad 182 toward an area in front of the catcher, thus making it easier for the catcher to recover the ball, and thus may be used with particular advantage by young children who are learning the game of baseball and may be more likely to miss catching the ball.
 In FIG. 4c, pad 182 has a cross-section similar to the embodiment of FIG. 4a, and in addition incorporated stiffeners 204. Stiffeners 204, as illustrated, are thin rods that can be comprised, in non-limiting examples, of plastic, metal, a composite material such as carbon composite, etc., and can be disposed in any area for which additional support is desired or required. Stiffeners 204 can have any desired cross-section, tapering, or other geometric configuration.
 In FIG. 4d, pad 182 includes outer surface 181d having a symmetric concave configuration. Inner and outer side walls 185d are of equal width.
 In FIG. 5, pad 182, having edges 212, is further provided with caps 210 secured to pad 182 along at least a portion of edges 212. Caps 210 can be formed, in various embodiments, from a resilient material such as a natural or synthetic rubber or other material. Caps 210 provide additional protection to pad 182, and also further help to reduce undesired scatter of a ball striking pad 182.
 In various embodiments, pad assembly 180 comprises pads having the same or different configurations, in particular outer surfaces having the same or different cross-sections.
Patent applications in class Knee pads or rests
Patent applications in all subclasses Knee pads or rests