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Functional Capacity Evaluations


A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a specialized test to assess an individual’s ability to safely perform activities as they relate to their present, former, and/or future employment. Essentially, a FCE is a measurement of an individual’s ability to perform work-related movements and/or tasks of the job, such as lifting; carrying; pushing; pulling; reaching; handling; climbing ladders, etc. The FCE measures both capacity and tolerance, including strength, endurance, speed, flexibility, and physical effort.

Roy and Leonard Matheson are considered to be the founding fathers of Rehabilitative Industrial Medicine in the United States. Their principles and practices have been implemented at The Arrigan Center for over 25 years. Roy Matheson has deemed our center as “one of the two premier workers’ compensation rehabilitation facilities in North America” (the other being in British Columbia, Canada).

Injured workers can be referred to The Arrigan Center for a Functional Capacity Evaluation by their treating physicians or by the Workers’ Compensation Court. A full evaluation may take up to several (three to four) hours to complete, and typically consists of four components:

Part 1 – The Interview:  The injured worker will first meet with one of our Case Managers to determine the presence of any secondary medical concerns that could adversely affect the health and safety of the injured worker during the FCE. A physical or occupational therapist will then meet with the injured worker to gather information from the patient regarding their understanding of their injury, recovery, perception of their ability to return to work, and to identify any possible barriers to return to work. An accurate description of the essential job demands is gathered from the employer and the injured worker, which is a critical component in accurate test construction.

Part 2 – The Clinical Evaluation: The physical/occupational therapist conducts a full evaluation of the injured worker, measuring their strength, flexibility, reflexes, sensation, and range of motion.

Part 3 – The Functional Assessment: The injured worker is asked to perform a variety of essential job demands, such as walking, bending, lifting, carrying weights, and climbing stairs/ladders. These activities vary for each worker, and are based upon the individual’s diagnosis and information relating to their specific job requirements. The therapist introduces all of the activities at a baseline level, and makes gradual increases while monitoring the injured worker’s response.

Part 4 – Review Test Results and Recommendations: The therapist will report anatomical findings, functional performance as it relates to the essential job demands, and identify any apparent barriers to performance, such as fatigue, pain, insufficient strength, and effort. The test results will show if any gaps exist between the job requirements and the injured worker’s capabilities. If the injured worker has not demonstrated function at the full duty level, the therapist can make recommendations regarding the need for additional treatment that may enable the injured worker to improve function and return to work full duty. If additional treatment is not likely to produce an increase in function, the FCE results identify the level at which the injured worker can safely return to work, and note any restrictions or accommodations needed.

Testing can be stopped at any time at the request of the injured worker. If the therapist believes that the injured worker is in no danger of injury, they will encourage him/her to attempt to perform the task. If the injured worker continues to feel reluctant, and declines to perform the task(s), the therapist will terminate the testing. If the therapist evaluates the injured worker and feels that he/she may be approaching an unsafe level of exertion, the therapist will stop the testing.

A formal FCE report that summarizes the injured worker’s work performance is submitted to their physician, attorney (if applicable), insurer, and/or the court.


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5/21/19 MDF