Michael C. Glenn of Clarksville, Texas, recently received U.S. Patent 8,182,439 for “Individual Body Support System.”
Texas Business Patent of the Day: A Texas man has devised a device to wear to help the user bear more weight, like body armor or gear.
Michael C. Glenn of Clarksville, Texas, recently received U.S. Patent 8,182,439 for “Individual Body Support System.”
Glenn applied for the patent more than four years ago on January 14, 2008.
The patent assignee is Emerald Touch Inc. of Fort Worth.
Glenn’s invention relates support garments and in particular to body support systems that transfer back and spinal loading to the hips and legs of a user and may incorporate body armor or other load attaching features, according to the patent documents.
A body support system significantly enhances the survivability and physical endurance of a person, including military service members (which body support system may be a "body armor" support system).
A body support system minimizes stress to frequently injured joints throughout the spine and shoulder girdle by redistributing the weight to the pelvic girdle. Wearers may find increased comfort and decreased fatigue whether walking or in a vehicle/aircraft.
The need for structural back supports to increase load bearing capability and prevent injuries has had attempts to address it from various points of view over years. The back injury is one of the highest rates of injuries known to industry. Currently military and manufacturing industries suffers from increased costs and decreased available workers secondary to back injuries related to each of their industries.
The loads applied to what are considered the most unstable joints in the body, the shoulders, cause an unnecessary strain and high rate of injury. The shoulder's instability is due to their ability for maximum range of motion. In order to achieve its range of motion the "shoulder girdle" does not develop with the advantage of the fusion used in the "pelvic girdle" to increase the stabilizing effects necessary for heavy repetitive load-bearing; strength is sacrificed for flexibility.
Common injuries to this area include nerve entrapments of the dorsal scapular nerve, spinal accessory nerve, axillary nerve, and thoracic outlet syndrome. Also rotator cuff injuries, acromioclavicular joint injuries, and capsular injuries are more frequent due to the repetitive motions necessary and constant-tension pressure compounded by the heavy load bearing. High impact injuries can cause compression fractures of the thoracic spine. Increased loads can cause compensation of the pelvis and increased lordosis of the lumbar spine. Research supports the idea that the spring loading affect on the lumbar spine directly increases the sheer forces of the fifth lumbar vertebra on the sacrum.
For both military and civilians, load bearing on the shoulders or lifting which transfers weight through the spine increases the odds of injury through sheer number of exposures to the strain of the repetitive/constant loads. The lower extremities have to carry any weight which is born by the shoulders and spine so the ability to transfer any load directly to the waist (center of gravity and most stable structure) without the wear and tear on the spine increases the durability of the spine by decreasing the number of insults to it.
For the military, the equipment necessary to protect the soldier causes an increase load that works against the natural movement of the ribcage. The additional force is not natural and increases the rate of fatigue. This rate of fatigue is a result of increased "Work of Breathing", a term commonly used in intensive care units by healthcare personnel trying to maximize the recovery rate from injury, disease or surgery by minimizing the energy a patient expends elsewhere, such as breathing. In order to correct these issues and maximize biomechanical capabilities, the load needs to be carried by the most stable components and distributed in a way to keep increased loads from significantly affecting a person's natural center of gravity which is located just below the navel at the waist. Additional body surface area coverage may supplement bodily protection by adding Kevlar to the structure itself, thereby protecting exposed portions of the spine and waist.
Civilian applications require the same improvements to provide support, however, ballistic protection is not needed. Personnel in many industries involved in repetitive lifting would benefit from the ability to lift the loads with diminished stress on their spine and shoulders.
The repetitive movements with constant-tension pressures cause decreased passive circulation to tissues and joints. Research shows that decreased partial pressure of oxygen in tissues causes increased messenger RNA levels of alpha 1 pro-collagen Decreased partial pressure of oxygen also leads to chemotaxis plus proliferation of fibroblasts.
Fibrinogen, a sticky glue, is the result. With time, this forms adhesions causing restrictions in movement of affected joints.
The shock absorbing effect of the spinal disks is reduced by application of steady load pressures. This is analogous to a vehicle that has been laden with a load greater than it was designed for "bottoming out" when it hits a pothole.
The body support system as described can be used and modified for use in military and non-military applications. While the description below may at times focus upon certain military and non-military applications, these are done for exemplary purposes and for the purpose of teaching those skilled in the art the general manner of carrying out the invention.
In military applications, the placement of Kevlar along exposed surfaces not protected already by the body armor adds protective benefits. The non-body armor attachment allows the same benefit for use with frequently lifting heavy loads. Again minimizing stress to the most common joints injured in the labor force. Current heavy body armor systems weigh 20 to 40 pounds with combat loads increasing the total load to in excess of 100 pounds.
The majority of this weight is carried on the military member's shoulders and torso and transferred down through the wearer's spine. The present invention allows the direct transfer of the heavy body armor system's weight directly to the pelvic girdle minimizing stress to the spinal and shoulder joints. An embodiment of the invention may include a nylon webbing waist belt secured with quick clips; hip, lumbar, and spinal padding with additional Kevlar fabric in areas not protected by the existing body armor systems; semi-rigid composite hip components and spinal component with adjustable yoke to redistribute the weight off the shoulders; a shock absorbing/flexible viscous-elastic polymer connection for the spinal and hip components. An embodiment may employ a ratchet-like adjustable swiveling support to redistribute the front load off the anterior chest wall shifting it to the hips; a vest-like shock absorbing liner with airflow channels to minimize heat retention. Other embodiments may employ a shock absorbing vest with airflow channels would realize an improvement in heat exchange thereby maximizing personnel heating/cooling.
A semi-rigid spinal segment with articulating hip components made of Kevlar.RTM. like reinforced composites up to ballistic standards may be used for the hip components and lower portion of the spine component. A mechanism is provided that allows axial adjustment of spinal component to insure proper fit of support to the individual body armor allowing up to approximately 6 inches of correction. Also provided are attachable and replaceable pads for the hips, lumbar support and yoke of the spine. Hip mounted (bilaterally) ratcheting or strut-like support may be used support the weight of the front load. These supports may be secured in front by nylon straps with "quick clips" attached to the composite components.
An embodiment for civilian applications may have differences from an embodiment for military applications as follows: Kevlar is added primarily for structural integrity. Hip mounted struts/ratchets are secured to the spine segment for stabilization. The yoke of the civilian version projects over the shoulders enough to allow for lifting straps to descend from the ends of the yoke such that they may be attached to any item being lifted without cutting into the clavicle. Additional straps may descend to attach to the front of the hip components to diminish anterior-posterior movement of the spine/lifting component.
Civilian versions may be made available direct to factories as well as for sale through popular construction supply outlets or warehouses. Also, backpack versions and versions that allow mothers to carry a baby and supplies with less back strain may be marketed.
Military versions, used to protect crewmembers and occupants of aircraft and ground vehicles (hereinafter referred to as vehicle occupants) from high velocity projectiles such as shrapnel or bullets, have traditionally required expensive upgrades. Vehicle occupants are extremely vulnerable from small arms, anti-aircraft fire or landmines. Since armor is relatively heavy, armoring large sections of aircraft becomes weight prohibitive. Ground vehicle occupants in trucks, jeeps, or cars may be in similar situations and may therefore benefit from approaches used for personnel in aircraft.
Heavy protection vests are feasible for vehicle occupants since they are normally seated and engage in limited activity. The problems faced by vehicle occupants with the heavy body armor occur because of extended wear or travel over rough terrain. The body armor's additional weight bears down on the wearer's spine, causes rubbing on the wearer's back and chest, and if worn loosely, can impact on the wearer's upper thighs. During severe bumps, hard landings, or traveling over rough terrain, the increased body armor weight could contribute to serious spine injuries.
An embodiments of the present invention lifts the weight off the shoulder girdle and distributes it to the pelvic girdle, in addition, it facilitates a more accurate biomechanical pelvic movement.
The structural design allows the use of optional attachments to the system (yoke/waist). The potential versions include: mailbags (saddlebags) baby carrier (papoose on front for small children and on back for large children backpack (small for children and school/large for long camping trips) medical lifting straps to aid in lifting patients by nurses, emergency medical service technicians, and other staff who frequently lift patients lifting straps with attachments for use in factory/mechanical other work which requires lifting (straps can be standardized with the ability to customize attachments for specific jobs) lifting straps which allow attachments for personal use in domestic duties requiring devices that include, for example: weed-eaters, yard blowers, etc. Fireman: structure to carry oxygen tanks Policemen: structure to carry/distribute weight of heavy shields, soft body armor, and equipment used frequently when breaching or searching a hazardous/dangerous environment.
A body support system comprises a vertical section extending in a vertical axis between first and second ends. A shoulder section is configured as a yoke with two shoulder elements each configured to ride above and off the shoulders of a user. The shoulder section is adjustably positioned along the vertical axis to conform to a size of the user and rigidly coupled the vertical section proximate to the first end. A hip section with hip elements is coupled at the second end. The hip elements are configured to flex to conform to hips of the user. The hip section is rigidly coupled along the vertical axis of the vertical section and flexibly coupled in directions allowing the user a range of motions relative to the vertical axis when secured in the body support system. An adjustable latching strap is configured to couple to connectors on the hip section and secure the hip elements around hips of a user when tightened.
The body support system may have hip padding configured as a lumbar pad coupled between first and second hip pads, wherein the hip padding is configured to couple to the hip section. The body support system may further comprise spinal padding coupled to the vertical section and configured as thoracic pad. The system may include shoulder pads coupled to the shoulder elements of the shoulder section.
The body support system may be configured such that each end of the shoulder elements has a connector for attaching lifting straps that aid a user in lifting a load when secured in the body support system.
The body support system has features that allows body armor in the form of a vest that is fitted over the body support system when worn by a user such that the weight of the body armor is directed by the vertical section and onto the hips and legs of the user.
The latching strap may be used to couples the hip padding to the hip section and secures the lumbar pad against a lumbar of the user and the hip elements, padded with the first and second hip pads, against hips of the user.