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Functional Capacity Evaluations


What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a systematic process of assessing an individual’s physical capacities and functional abilities. The FCE matches human performance levels to the demands of a specific job or work activity or occupation. The FCE establishes the physical level of work an individual can perform. The FCE is useful in determining job placement, job accommodation, or return to work after injury or illness. FCEs can provide objective information regarding functional work ability in the determination of occupational disability status. The FCE may be used:
  • To determine the individual’s ability to safely return to work full time or on modified duty.
  • To determine if work restrictions, job modifications, or reasonable accommodations are necessary to prevent further injury
  • To determine the extent to which impairments exist, or the degree of physical disability for compensation purposes
  • To predict the potential ability to perform work following acute rehabilitation or a work- hardening/work- conditioning program

What can I expect?

The functional capacity evaluation assesses the individual’s flexibility, strength, balance, coordination, cardiovascular condition, and body mechanics. An effective FCE determines whether there is a match between the individual’s functional capabilities, and the physical demands of work. Typically, an FCE focuses on a job goal rather than on individual aptitudes, interest, and temperaments. The individual’s psychosocial behaviors are assessed in relation to appropriate worker traits. There are two types of FCE:
  1. Baseline FCE — An objective assessment of the individual’s physical abilities to perform a variety of tasks related to the physical demands of work
  2. Job specific FCE – An evaluation of the individual’s physical abilities to function within the parameters of an identified job. The job specific FCE is based on critical physical demands of the essential functions of the job. Work simulation activities are often an integral component of the evaluation.
A physical or occupational therapist trained to administer FCE’s will evaluate you. The session lasts between 2 and 4 hours depending on the individual’s needs. The process involves filling out pain and function questionnaires and completing physical tasks that have been selected by the evaluator and that will best meet the individual’s needs. The FCE evaluator will analyze the data collected from the session to reflect the specific objective information regarding functional work ability in the determination of occupational disability status.

Who Should Be Referred for an FCE?

  • Individuals who have achieved maximum medical improvement but continue to have issues related to re-injury and return to work.
  • Individuals who need quantification of their physical capacities for determination of disability status.
  • Individuals who need their function quantified prior to vocational job search and/or return to work