Looking for ergonomics advice after first season

Hi everyone, I recently finished my first full season of racing in karts (X30 Sr. on YNBs) and had an absolute blast, definitely addicted for life. Prior to this season, I had never driven a racing kart other than a couple arrive-and-drive weekends in a 206 on parking lot cone tracks. Early on in the season I am pretty sure I fractured a rib while driving on a club track (which is notorious for being hard on the driver due to small size and rougher surface than most ‘real’ tracks). It hounded me throughout the season and made practicing, racing, and overall just driving the kart and developing as a driver a nearly unbearable pain in the side (literally)! Only in the past month or so (the final two race weekends) have I really been able to drive (relatively) pain-free, with the only discomfort being minor hip bruising and a tender side (which I figure are relatively unavoidable).

My main question is this, how do I prepare myself for off-season practice/testing (and maybe a race or two) and also next season so I can race at my fullest and not have to worry about passive injury or major discomfort? I use a Tillet P1 rib vest size M, modified with some additional strap and velcro to allow me to tighten it more than stock since I’m a little more slender than it is meant to fit. I should probably switch over to a size S but the price and a looming race had me looking for other options (the modifications)… Honestly, my main concern is my seat. I am using an NEK seat (size C5.32), and although it felt comfortable at first, after thinking about it, racing with it for a season, and getting a fractured rib, I believe it may be too big. We’ve had to pad the seat significantly to keep me in place, and it still feels like I am moving around too much in the kart. Does anyone have any good guides or rules for sizing a seat and finding a good fit? I’ve looked as best I can and most seat manufacturers seem to not have anything more than rough guidelines (which I don’t really seem to fit well at 145lb/6ft).

On the fitness side, I hit the gym 3 times a week and try to eat well, but does anyone have recommendations for particular regions or exercises to focus on to prevent rib injury or general side pain?

Sorry for the long and rambly post, but I figured details would help :slight_smile:
Thanks in advance!

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First thing I would do is try and figure out what you actually injured. As a fellow rib-wrecker myself, I can tell you there is quite a difference in healing between a cracked rib and something like torn intercostal muscles. I previously torn my intercostal muscles on the left side (muscles between ribs tear and become detached) which was excruciating. It plagued me for over a year and it can’t heal properly if you continue to stress it. Then the secondary issue is the muscle is replaced by scar tissue if you really hurt them, so they get weaker and become even more prone to injury. There was a time in 2013 where I couldn’t do 2 laps without debilitating pain, regardless of how long I had rested or how good I felt beforehand. Then, being stubborn and trying to get through the season with that injury, I ended up cracking my ribs on the other side while I was leaning off my left side injury, so I was really beat up by the end of 2013 and couldn’t sit in a kart without pain. My point is, a cracked rib will heal back and be fine once it’s healed, but tearing your intercostals can literally be a terminal injury. 5 years later now, I can feel that left side flare up every time I play my weekly softball game. So 4-5 at-bats is enough to bother it again.

@Trey_Shannon helped me with some rehab exercises, and I got ahold of a Bengio Bumper vest which essentially saved my karting career. Of all the vests I tried during the interim, this was the only one that completely made the pain go away and allowed me to race with no issues again. Coupled with a DeepSeat, it was like driving in an easy chair. With the Bengio, I can now go back to running the standard Tillett/OTK seats with no issues. If you’re having rib issues and you think it’s your seat, I would first take a look and see if it’s pressure points that are injuring you or if it’s seat fitment. My issue was with pressure points on both the rib vest I was using at the time of my injury (really old and worn out Tillett P1) and the seat pressure points. A DeepSeat is going to eliminate those pressure points and spread out the load across more of your torso so it’s more comfortable. However, you could just need a different sized seat. The issue is that everyone is a different shape and size, so general guidelines are really the best that manufacturers can give.

I always run a little bit of padding in my seat, but I’m pretty snug in there. My opinion is that you should be snug in the seat just sitting still, so there should be very minimal space on either side. Your body will compress a lot under G-load, so in the corners, there will be some space. You want the seat to hug you nicely still even when loaded. I don’t have any specific experience with the NEK seats, but it might be worth trying to go down a size in the seat and seeing if that helps keep you in place so you aren’t beating against the sides as much.

I don’t think it was torn muscles, as I was always able to generally recover to a point of being able to go to the gym and not worry other than on the most targeted core exercises after a couple of weeks. However I did make the same stubborn mistake you describe of ignoring doctor’s orders and going racing regardless…

Thankfully it seems to be pretty much fully healed at this point and I’m mostly hoping to avoid reinjuring it. Unfortunately since I have no remaining symptoms, I don’t think I could really pinpoint the exact injury. A cursory doctor’s examination right after the injury said it was a bruised or maybe slightly fractured rib, but after waxing and waning in intensity over an entire racing season, I’m pretty sure it was fractured by the end…

I don’t think it’s specific pressure points, as like I said I tended to fit pretty loose in the seat when unpadded, although it is definitely possible that the pads we have in there are creating pressure points on their edges which are causing the slight discomfort I have now. I’ll definitely look into the Bengio as well. I’m going to try and sit in a few seats of my teammates of varying sizes and see if I can find one that is snug… Unfortunately I seem to be a terrible judge of fit while sitting in the pits! My original seat felt great sitting still in the pit lane, but as soon as I got up to speed I felt like my torso had shrunk 3 sizes.

Yeah that’s the issue with trying to determine in the pits… Like I said, you’d be amazed how much your body compresses under cornering.

My cracked ribs never fully healed as I’d be hopping back in a kart before it was fully recovered. It takes so long to heal.
I tried mixing up rib protectors but what finally solved the issue for me was a deepseat which protects your ribs by more broadly distributing the lateral loads. It’s 300 bucks well spent. Totally pain free now.