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TJ Koyen


After racing with messed up ribs for 2 seasons now, I have become an expert on the topic. I originally popped them at Beaverun and every race since then, I’ve been in pain from practice session one, regardless of rest time in between race events.

First off, Walt is right. A DeepSeat or RibTect will make a world of difference. But I can understand if you want to hold out and try and get by with your OTK seat.

I have used the Shocktec stuff and it works well but the thing with all these foams is where you place them to absorb the blows.

A little background on what we are trying to do when we pad the ribs. I’m assuming like me, you’ve probably torn your intercostal muscles, which are the muscles between the ribs that hold them in place. For me, it’s on the back left side of my rib cage. Remember that ribs are floating so the only thing keeping them together are the muscles and cartilage between them. I have re-injured mine almost every race for the past 2 years and so for me, it’s all scar tissue there holding my ribs together, and it’s weaker every time I hurt them. The doctor told me I probably would never be pain free again.

For the most part I’ve been able to get by with creative usage of padding, some strong Aleve, ice, and just gritting my teeth.

Basically, what you want BEFORE you are injured is a firmer padding like the Shocktec stuff. I also have some surgical gel pads that I have taped into my ribvest which really absorb energy. However, all that firm padding is useless once you are hurting. At that point, it’s time to start softening the blow as much as possible. At Mooresville for the opening USPKS race, I was in a ton of pain on Friday and was almost positive I wasn’t going to make it through the weekend. With my injury being on the back side of my ribs, it’s painful for me to just sit in the kart and every time I breathed it would hurt, I would wince, it would tense up and then it would hurt again. I tried every padding combo I could think of; placing it in my seat, my vest, and swapping them around but nothing really helped. I finally found some padding I had used a long time ago to tape up and make into a rain racing booster in my seat to sit on. I ripped it apart and there was some really soft foam padding in there. The kind of padding that sometimes comes in “waffle” shape, but this was just flat. I don’t really know the technical name for it, but it looks like this kind of:

It fixed everything. Honestly, went from intolerable pain to almost no pain. The trick though is to put it against your ribs. So I took out my surgical padding from my vest and folded this foam in half and taped it directly into my vest, right on top of my ribs where I was feeling pain. It’s way less dense so folding it in half seems like it’s thick but it’s like having a big fluffy pillow in your vest. Mine goes all the way across my back so there’s no pressure points. Then, I have placed the firmer padding in the seat, across the back and on the sides. The soft foam in my vest dissipates most of the original force and the firmer padding helps keep bolts and stuff from hurting. I tried it reverse, with soft padding in the seat and firm in my vest, and it didn’t help. Placing the soft padding in the vest fixed everything.

Pressure points are the killer. I’ve tried all the vests you can think of. Some have plates that don’t go far enough around my back and they end up creating a pressure point right on my injured ribs. I have found the best vest so far is the Bengio Bumper, which I’ve just gotten recently and it fits better and helps soften the pain better than the Ribtect and FreeM I had previously been using. It has a soft memory foam padding that extends the full width of the vest so there’s no pressure points. The DeepSeat and Ribtect seat both work to alleviate pressure points as well. The sides are rounded so they fit the curve of your ribs better and dissipate energy around your rib cage rather than in one spot. If you look at the sides of a standard seat, they have a pretty sharp transition from back to front and also from top to bottom at the waist of the seat.

I’m so confident in my new little padding set up that I am going to be trying to run an OTK seat again this weekend rather than the DeepSeat I was using.

Obviously the other thing you can do is fitness. Anything that’s going to work your core will help build up some natural padding and strength to keep off your ribs. You can’t really work out your intercostal muscles very well, but you can work the areas around your rib cage to help keep off your ribs. Your serratus muscles (right under your armpit) can help keep you off your ribs, so I try to work them out a bit, as well as general core work, and some back work, which can also keep your posture better in the kart and strengthen the areas around the back of your rib cage.

Hopefully that helps, if you have questions about anything don’t hesitate to let me know. I’ve pretty much tried every padding, vest, seat, pain relief out there and like I said, I’ve fought separated ribs for two years and even cracked ribs on the right side trying to keep off my ribs on the left side too. And it sucks because there’s nothing you can do really to help once they are hurt. They need to heal naturally and it hurts like crazy.

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