What Is a Functional Capacity Exam?
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. There are also many “fake” tests to determine if you are exaggerating your symptoms or if you are giving full effort. You will be observed the entire time and often times, you are even observed when you pull into the parking lot.
Your test results and the therapist’s observations are used to establish what activities you are able to do and for how long.
The Two Purposes of the FCE
- Restrictions: The results of the exam will show what your physical capabilities are so that if appropriate, the therapist can determine what work restrictions he or she will recommend to your treating physician to outline your return to work capabilities.
- Impairment Rating: The FCE will also determine your impairment rating. The impairment rating is the measurement of loss of use and/or loss of range of motion to a specific body part as a result of your injuries. The impairment rating will also need to be submitted to your treating physician for final approval.
Your FCE and MMI
Normally, a FCE should not be performed until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), MMI means that you have gotten as good as the doctor believes you are 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. If you are preparing to attend an FCE as the result of your Virginia work injury, you may want to speak to an experienced workers compensation attorney as this can sometimes be a large milestone in your case.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.