Rib Issues... Ugh

So looking for some recommendations here basically. Long time karter and have dealt with my share of rib injuries, both bruised and cracked, and now separated. Last year I cracked my ribs at one our clubs premier events when I thought it would be a good idea to run 3 classes (206, 100cc, Shifter) on a fairly bumpy track, it was exhausting to say the least and resulted in cracked ribs on my left side. I’m not old by any means at 33, but I don’t see the seat as much as I did in my 20’s prior to marriage and kids. That was in late August and I stepped out of the seat to let my ribs heal until Rok Vegas, getting laser therapy twice a week most weeks to help them heal and it did.

Going into Rok Vegas (Master Shifter) my ribs weren’t 100 percent, but they were feeling pretty good. Prior to Vegas I had been a long time supporter of Bengio as it had saved me years ago after some rib injuries, though I really had one size too large on the Bengio. Also I use a Tillett T9.5 seat. For vegas I decided to try out a Stilo Carbon Curva rib vest as it conforms to the body better than the Bengio and seems to be well regarded. It is a comfortable rib vest and seemed to be doing the job, my ribs slowly getting more sore through the weekend but not painful at all. Sunday comes around and I knew my fitness with being out of the seat for a bit was gonna hurt in the main with it being twice the length of any races we had done so far. About halfway through the race fatigue started setting in, my arms were pumped and holding on was getting difficult unfortunately causing me to fall back. With I think about 5 to go I felt something go in my right side ribs which prior hadn’t been an issue, after that I was in a good amount of pain wincing at every bump especially on the left handers which there was some good ones.

Fast forward to now and the cracked ribs seem to be fine, healed up no biggie. The separated rib however is definitely not. At this point I’m planning to sit out a good part of the year to let it heal fully (it was gonna be a castrated year regardless due to work) but I’m trying to make a plan for when I return to the seat of my KZ/Rok. I’ve pondered going to a Ribtect seat or something similar, but have had past experiences of karts not liking the flex characteristics. I’ve heard rumor of individuals making a custom carbon rib vest fit exactly to their body (even down to seeing individual rib bumps in the carbon shell), think I heard D. Wang has one but I haven’t talked to him. End goal is to go back to Rok Vegas in 2024 when I can have a good year of seat time without work interfering and hopefully no more injuries. The pace showed in Master Shifter Rok was better than expected so now I have a bone to pick, just need to make sure my body can take the beating.

Any input is welcome, just brainstorming because rib injuries suck as many of you know.

Sounds like a solid plan. Rib injuries take a lot of time to heal, taking time off completely is a smart choice that will pay back later. If you haven’t done it already, find an Orthopedic physician that specializes in sports related injuries, have a medical and check-in plan along the way. A personal trainer can also help put together a fitness plan working around the injury, so you can be 100% when back. All money well spent.

“Powering through it”, unless you are under contract or your livelihood depends on it, is never a wise choice.

As far as seats and vests I can’t help, other than with a small datapoint. As former T9.5t user I can say I didn’t like it, as the extra angle took away some of the leverage I had. I’m now back to T11t. Changing the posture a bit, leaning outwards to load the outside tires, also helped with rib pain as I’m pre-loading my weight to the side of the seat vs keeping it neutral and risking to be thrown around.

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I separated my left side and then tried to keep racing the rest of the season by leaning onto my right side more, which ended up cracking my right side at a particularly high-grip Pro Tour race in Dallas.

The crack will heal good as new. The separation is a much trickier thing to solve. With mine, even with 6 months off of no racing, the pain flared up almost immediately at the first event of the next season. The problem is that with the separation, unless you rehab it with specific targeted workouts like Andy mentioned, it will heal as scar tissue and just become weaker and weaker the more you beat on it. So you definitely need to take a few months off, but while you’re doing that you need to be doing some rib/oblique/core work to build muscle back. My good buddy @Trey_Shannon helped me with some tips on how to break down the scar tissue and focus on getting the ribs strong again. I’ve documented my experience in several other posts here over the years.

The Bengio cured my pain after the separation, but certainly isn’t an end-all solution for everyone. A DeepSeat or Ribtect can also be helpful too, which I used a bit when I was injured and it allowed me to keep going. I noted recently in a thread about the DeepSeat that there are ways to help it flex and act more like a normal seat. I was able to run the DeepSeat with an active injury and still qualify on pole and lead the weekend at USPKS, and was able to have front running pace at Pro Tour/SuperNats with it, so it isn’t a total handling-ruiner.

I tried a custom-molded vest/shirt too (like quarterbacks wear) and didn’t really like how it felt to be honest, but maybe the tech has evolved since then.

But yeah for sure the most important thing after the separation is not to drive on it for while. Maybe you feel like you can get away with it and fight through the pain for a few weekends, but it becomes a real problem when you get sent into the barriers in Vegas and take a good shot to your already injured ribs… ask me how I know. The scar tissue that builds up can be a life-long issue. Even now, like when I play softball, after 3 at-bats my ribs are pretty sore on that side just from the twisting. Random, seemingly normal motions sometimes irritate it and I get stiff and sore on that side. I went bowling the other day and my left ribs were sore for four days.

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Prior to the T9.5t I was using a T11VG but reclined significantly. The issue with this is that it caused my leg to interfere with the shifter on downshifts. When I went to the 9.5 it actually sat me up just a tad. I may try a switch back to the T11VG though for shifter.

Yeah I’ve basically written this year off as a healing year, it’ll help the pocketbook a bit also :joy: . I’m terrible at working out, never really liked doing it and currently work rotating 12hr shift work so makes any kind of routine difficult. Have been contemplating getting a personal trainer for the 2024 season though to try and force myself to be in proper shape. The speed was there in Vegas, just need the body to hold up.

I’m right there with you. In my case, I begrudgingly stayed up an extra 20-30 min or woke up 20 min early to do a few core workouts because being able to actually race properly again was the carrot dangling in front of me. Otherwise the pain and frustration of it definitely would’ve forced me to stop racing. You know how the pain is, there’s no way to race around that.

I went to a sports doctor who basically said if I don’t stop racing, it’s just going to be a terminal injury.

It’s a slow process to get back up to speed, but now I have driven a few times without my rib vest even, and I can manage it for a day or two. But yeah the separation injury is a brutal thing.

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It is not advertised as such. And it depends on body structure. But I have found the jecko to do wonders for support. The side support in the legs helps when getting fatigued. I destroyed a rib this year at the final club race. And it just so happened I was in an otk seat.

Once I could move again I sat in each kart one with jecko and one with otk. And found I sat deeper in the jecko with more side support. At that point swore off any other seat. Tuning between the two seats was almost identical as well which I had heard was not the case.