Functional capacity evaluations (FCEs) have become an important component of disability evaluation during the past 10 years to assess an individual's ability to perform the essential or specific functions of a job, both preplacement and during rehabilitation. Evaluating both job performance and physical ability is a complex assessment, and some practitioners are not yet certain that an FCE can achieve these goals. An FCE is useful only if it predicts job performance, and factors that should be assessed include overall performance; consistency of performance across similar areas of the FCE; consistency between observed behaviors during the FCE and limitations or abilities reported by the worker; objective changes (eg, blood pressure and pulse) that are appropriate relative to performance; external factors (illness, lack of sleep, or medication); and a coefficient of variation that can be measured and assessed. FCEs can identify specific movement patterns or weaknesses; measure improvement during rehabilitation; identify a specific limitation that is amenable to accommodation; and identify a worker who appears to be providing a submaximal effort. FCEs are less reliable at predicting injury risk; they cannot tell us much about endurance over a time period longer than the time required for the FCE; and the FCE may measure simple muscular functions when the job requires more complex ones.

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