A: A Functional Capacity Evaluation (also referred to as “FCE”) is a detailed series of tests performed by a licensed physical therapist to determine if you have any physical limitations as a result of your injury. The test is quite lengthy, often lasting up to four hours. You will be performing activities and doing tests using equipment. Many tests automatically record results. Many tests are “fake” tests to determine if you are exaggerating. The therapist also will observe you during testing as well. Your test results and the therapist’s observations are used to establish what activities you are able to do and for how long.
An FCE can serve two purposes. First, it can show what an injured workers’ physical capabilities are to allow the physical therapist to determine what work restrictions are needed to make recommendations to the treating physician. Second, it allows the physical therapist to determine your impairment rating to be approved by the treating physician.
Normally, a FCE should not be performed until the injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), MMI means the injured worker has gotten as good as he or she is going to get. An impairment rating is not valid until the injured worker has reached MMI and any physical restrictions cannot be considered permanent until the injured worker has reached MMI. However, some doctors will order them before MMI is reached to ensure that physical restrictions are valid.