Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE)

What is Functional Capacity Evaluation?

Functional Capacity Evaluation, commonly referred to as FCE, is a comprehensive assessment of tests, practices, and observations that aim to determine an individual’s physical capacity and ability to safely return to work after a work-related injury or extended medical leave. These evaluations are evidenced-based and legally defensible XRTS tests that provide safe return-to-work recommendations.

Assume you suffer a work-related injury or illness. Following your recovery from the injury or illness, your employer or insurance provider may request that you take an FCE to determine your ability to return to work.

If an injured worker is unable to return to work, the FCE provides information on prognosis and occupational rehabilitation measures that may be possible. An FCE can also be used to help identify changes to an injured worker’s workload, or modifications to working conditions such as ergonomic measures, that the employer may be able to undertake to accommodate an employee with a disability or medical condition.

Here are some facts:

  • Approximately 1/3 of all injuries in the United States are occupational in nature.
  • In 2020, 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported, with nearly 43% resulting in lost workdays (i.e., recuperation away from work or restricted duties at work).
  • Focused interdisciplinary rehabilitation programs have been shown to achieve return-to-work rates of 50-88%.
  • The longer patients are away from work, the less likely they are to ever return (50% of people who are out of work for six months never return).

FCE Testing

At Memphis Physical Therapy we provide FCEs that are evidence-based practices and individualized treatment plans. We work to provide the highest quality test results that are trustworthy, valuable, and insightful to the individual’s limitations and capabilities. This enables us to better understand each employer’s specific case, and their readiness to return to work and avoid future injuries.

The evaluation process typically consists of several key components:

  • Patient History: before conducting the evaluation, the healthcare provider gathers relevant information about the individual’s medical history, previous injuries, surgeries, and current health status. This background information helps consider the evaluation process.
  • Objective Measurements: FCEs involve a series of standardized tests to assess different aspects of an individual’s physical abilities. These can include assessing range of motion, muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and other relevant factors.
  • Functional Task Evaluation: Individuals are asked to perform a variety of tasks that simulate real-life activities. These tasks are often tailored to the individual’s specific needs, such as lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, bending, and reaching. The evaluator observes the individual’s performance, noting any difficulties, limitations, or signs of pain.
  • Pain Assessment: Pain levels are assessed during the different tasks to determine how pain may affect the individual’s functional capacity. This is crucial in identifying tasks that might exacerbate pain and guiding appropriate interventions.
  • Objective Data Collection: Throughout the evaluation, objective data is collected, including measurements, observations, and pain ratings. This data helps in generating a comprehensive report that outlines the individual’s capabilities and limitations.
  • Reporting: After completing the evaluation, the healthcare provider compiles the collected data and generates a detailed report. This report outlines the individual’s functional strengths and weaknesses, pain levels, and recommendations for further treatment.
  • Return-to-Work Considerations: For individuals returning to work after an injury or illness, FCEs play a crucial role in assessing their readiness. The evaluation will help determine if the individual can perform job-related tasks safely and effectively.
  • Legal and Insurance Documentation: FCE results are often used as evidence in legal cases, insurance claims, and workplace accommodations. The objective data and observations from the evaluations provide a clear picture of the individual’s functional status.

Click here to read more about what to expect from an FCE.

Functional Capacity Evaluations serve as a valuable tool for assessing an individual’s physical abilities and limitations. By conducting this comprehensive evaluation, we can tailor treatment plans, guide return-to-work decisions, and provide evidence-based recommendations that will ultimately enhance the individual’s quality of life and overall functional well-being.