Field of the Invention This invention relates to the field of braces for immobilizing limbs, and in particular, to braces for immobilizing the upper arm and shoulder adapted for use by athletes.
Background of the Invention A common sports injury is a dislocated shoulder, torn shoulder muscles or the like. While the injury is recuperating, the injured person is prevented from activity which might risk re-injuring the shoulder unless the injured person is wearing a brace which limits the range of motion of the arm attached to the injured shoulder.
In the prior art, applicant is aware of United States patent No. 4,491,129 which issued January 1, 1985 to Lockwood for a Strapping Assembly And Method For The Treatment Of Acromioclavicular Separations. The Lockwood assembly includes a high stocking worn on the leg of the patient on the opposite side of the separation injury, a strap connected at one end to the stocking and tensionable by means of a garter. The strap extends diagonally across the back from the stocking, over the shoulder on the side of the injury, and downwardly along the front of the chest to loop around the forearm beneath the shoulder. The forearm is thus supported in a sling-like position. What is neither taught nor suggested is the use of a figure ''8" anchored around the upper thigh for immobilizing the upper arm following a shoulder separation injury rather than a clavicle separation.
Applicant is also aware of United States patent No. 4,735,198 which issued April 5, 1988 to Sawa for an Injury Reduction and Stabilizing Harness. Sawa teaches a body harness formed as a partial vest having a torso encircling portion and, extended from one side of the torso encircling portion, a sleeve for encircling the upper arm and shoulder. The upper arm within the sleeve may be immobilized by releasably mountable straps mountable to the sleeve and to the torso encircling portion. Again, what is neither taught nor suggested is the use of a figure "8" anchored around the upper thigh. Rather, it has been the applicant's experience that devices according to the Sawa design tend to ride up during use due to imperfect fit of the vest so as to tent to uncomfortably rub against the ribs.
It is also been found that during active use, the vest may be uncomfortably hot.
Summary of the Invention In summary, the shoulder brace of the present invention comprises a first elongate flexible member crossed over so as to form a lower loop along a mid portion of the first elongate flexible member. An upper vertex of the lower loop is formed at an adjustable crossover. The adjustable crossover is adjustable so as to snug the lower loop around an upper thigh of a user by sliding mating or releasable fastening of the first elongate flexible member in a criss-cross arrangement at first and second portions thereof corresponding to the crossover at the vertex of the lower loop.
An adjustable cuff is provided which is selectively adjustable for snug wearing around an upper arm of the user. First and second opposite ends of the first elongate flexible member are mounted, or releasably mountable, to the cuff so as to form an upper loop generally diagonally extending between the crossover and the cuff so as to tension the first elongate flexible member therebetween and thereby form a figure "8" of the first elongate flexible member.
The upper loop, when tensioned between the crossover and the cuff extends diagonally across front and back surfaces of a torso of the user so as to encircle the torso within the upper loop. The upper loop lies generally in a first plane angularly offset from a second plane generally containing the lower loop. The planes intersect at the crossover when the lower loop is worn around the upper thigh of the user, opposite to an injured of the user, and the cuff is worn on the upper arm on a side of the user corresponding to the injured shoulder.
A second elongate flexible member may be mounted or mountable generally perpendicular to the upper loop so as to extend in a supporting loop from a side of the upper loop adjacent the front surface of the torso to a side of the upper loop adjacent the back surface of the torso. The second elongate flexible member may be mounted so as to extend over an opposite shoulder of the user to the injured shoulder and tensioned so as to support the upper loop in generally the first plane.
When the lower loop is worn around the upper thigh with the crossover located generally adjacent a hip of the user corresponding to the upper thigh, and the upper loop extends diagonally from the crossover across the torso so as to be tensioned to or around the cuff on the upper arm on the side of the user corresponding to the injured shoulder, the upper arm is immobilized.
The adjustable cuff may be adjustable by means of first releasable fasteners mounted at opposite ends of the cuff. The first and second opposite ends of the first elongate flexible member may be releasably mountable to the cuff by means of second hook and loop fasteners.
The means of sliding mating or releasable fastening of the adjustable crossover may include at least one restraining strap fastened at its ends to the first portion of the first elongate flexible member so as to sandwich, at the crossover, the second portion of the first elongate flexible member in sliding engagement therebetween. The first portion is spaced from the second portion of the first elongate flexible member to thereby form the lower loop.
Advantageously, a second restraining strap is mounted at its ends to the second portion of the elongate flexible member so as to sandwich, at the crossover, the first portion therebetween.
The first portion may be in sliding engagement therebetween or releasably fastened therebetween for example, by use of hook and loop fasteners.
Further advantageously, the first elongate flexible member and the second elongate flexible member are straps.
Brief Description of the Drawings Figure 1 is, in front elevation view, the sports brace of the present invention being worn by a patient.
Figure 2 is, in rear elevation view, the sports brace of Figure 1.
Figure 3 is, in right side elevation view, the sports brace of Figure 1.
Figure 4 is, in perspective view, the sports brace of the present invention in a storage configuration.
Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment As seen in Figures 1 - 3, the shoulder brace of the present invention is a simple yet effective flexible structure 10 which uses a first elongate strap 12 which wraps around the arm 14, below the shoulder 16a and preferably around a collar or sleeve 18 on the upper arm 14a, and around the thigh 20 of the user in the manner of a figure "8".
Wrapping the lower loop 22 of the figure ''8" around thigh 20 snugly up under crotch 24 provides two advantages, namely, the brace does not ride up so as to thereby defeat the immobilizing effect on the upper arm 14a, and the use of thigh 20, for example, in running is not interfered with.
An upper loop in the figure "8", which may be thought of as lying generally in plane A-A shown in Figure l, is formed by releasably mounting, in opposed relation, the opposite ends of first elongate strap 12 to collar or sleeve 18. Strap 12 may be releasably mounted for example by means of hook and loop fasteners 12a (shown in dotted outline) on the ends of strap 12, and corresponding mating pieces on the exterior surface of collar or sleeve 18. Collar or sleeve 18 may be snugly fitted around the bicep area of upper arm 14a by means of hook and loop fasteners 18a.
A second shorter elongate flexible strap 26 is joined in the manner of a "T"
towards one end of, so as to extend perpendicularly from, the first elongate longer strap 12.
The shorter strap 26 supports the upper loop in the figure "8" by extending over the non-injured shoulder 16b and prevents the upper loop of the figure "8" from slipping or drooping.
Strap 26 may be joined to strap 12 by means of stitching or the like, preferably to place the stitched end of strap 26 in the middle of torso back 28. The opposite end of strap 26 is mounted, or releasable mountable by means of buckle 30 or other releasable fasteners, to strap 12 advantageously in the middle of torso front 32. Buckle 30 may be stitched to strap 12.
Strap 26 may be adjustable in length, or pre-adjusted or sized so that strap 12 lies generally in a plane A-A where strap 12 crosses torso back 28 and torso front 32.
The upper and lower loops of the figure "8" formed by strap 12 intersect at adjustable crossover 34 so as to form an ''X"-shape when viewed in side elevation. The lower loop may be thought of as lying generally in plane B-B, angularly offset from plane A-A and intersecting at the crossover 34. Crossover 34 is adjustable in the sense that strap 12 may be mugged around thigh 20 when adjusting the tension of strap 12, tensioned against collar or sleeve 18 when strap 12 is mounted thereto. The lower loop can be mugged around thigh 20 and held in a tight loop by hook and loop fasteners. Crossover 34 may be adjustable by means of restraining straps 36a and 36b (in dotted outline) mounted at the ends thereof to corresponding portions of strap 12 at crossover 34. Restraining strap 36a sandwiches strap segment 12' of strap 12 in sliding engagement between restraining strap 36a and strap segment 12", thus limiting the range of motion of strap segment 12' along strap segment 12".
Restraining strap 36b is mounted to the underside of crossover 34, where crossover 34 is advantageously adjacent the user's hip 38. Restraining strap 36b sandwiches strap segment 12" in sliding engagement, or in releasably secured engagement by means of hook and loop fasteners at crossover 34, between restraining strap 36b and strap segment 12', thus limiting the range of motion of strap segment 12" along strap segment 12'.
The result is that the figure "8" of strap 12, tensioned between the lower loop 22 anchored around thigh 20 and collar or sleeve 18, does not pull on injured shoulder 16a while immobilizing upper arm 14a so as to prevent shoulder abduction and external rotation after, for example, shoulder dislocation. The placement of crossover 34 adjacent hip 38, with lower loop 22 mugged under crotch 24, allows relatively unrestricted movement of thigh 20, for example, during exercise. Consequently, shoulder brace 10 is well adapted for use as a sports brace.
As will be apparent to those skilled in the art in the light of the foregoing disclosure, many alterations and modifications are possible in the practice of this invention without departing from the spirit or scope thereof. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is to be construed in accordance with the substance defined by the following claims.