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6 Things to Know Before Completing an FCE

by Matt Weirich OTR/L, CEAS, MS18 Comments

If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you may be asked to participate in a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) during your recovery process.

Before taking this evaluation, however, it is important to understand what to expect. Although there are several different reasons as to why someone may be referred to complete an FCE, the article below will provide a basic understanding:

workers' comp and functional capacity evaluation1. What is an FCE?

FCE is an acronym for “functional capacity evaluation.” This is a medically ordered test for an injured worker who is being treated under a workers’ compensation claim. The test is typically ordered by a physician; however lawyers, employers and insurance companies may request an FCE in certain circumstances.

2. Who will be at the appointment?

An injured worker and a licensed health care provider will be at the FCE appointment. The health care provider could be a physician, physical therapist or athletic trainer. Injured workers should not bring family or friends to their appointment.

3. Why was I asked to participate in an FCE?

An FCE is asked to be completed so that a medical document can objectively outline what aspects of work can and cannot be completed for the injured worker. Additionally, the report may outline potential adaptive strategies to help facilitate the worker’s return to their job. In some instances, the FCE may be used for an individual who is filing for long term disability so that a medical document can be provided to help in the decision process.

4. When will I participate in an FCE?

An FCE is typically completed at the end of the therapy process; however all clients may not have therapy before an FCE. The doctor will decide the best course of treatment based on the injury. The worker may be approaching a release from care following an injury and the FCE will help the medical team decide what the next steps should be for preparing to return to work or for the continuation of therapy.

5. How will the FCE be completed?

The licensed health care provider will ask the injured worker about their job and the physical requirements being performed. Before testing, the worker should ask their employer for a job description to bring to the FCE. If one is not available, the health care provider will ask questions at the beginning of the FCE to outline the physical requirements of the worker’s job. Based on this information, the health care provider will assess a variety of areas, including:

  • Material handling (lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying)
  • Positional tolerance (squatting, kneeling, walking, reaching, bending, sitting, standing, crawling, balance, etc.)
  • Objective measurements for injured body parts (range of motion, muscle strength, circumferential measurements for swelling,  etc.)

6. Where will I take an FCE?

FCEs are medical tests that should be conducted at a medical facility like Athletico Physical Therapy. Depending on the state where the worker’s compensation claim was filed, The injured worker may have the option to select the location for their FCE.

For more information about your states laws, request an appointment at your nearest Athletico location.

Click to Request an Appointment

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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  1. Athletico

    Hi Kim – Your health is important to us! Please call our work injury department at 1-888-896-7548 so we can assist you. Thanks!

  2. Athletico

    Hi Masie! Your health is important to us. Please give us a call at 1-877-ATHLETICO so we can discuss your symptoms/injury. Thanks!

  3. Donald Mutong

    I am trying to return to work, I had a light stroke back in March. I’m 63yr and not ready to retire. I’ve been driving trucks for 30 years. Can the FCE test help me get back to work and will it be sufficient for the FMCSA

  4. Athletico

    Donald – An FCE (Functional Capacity Evaluation) can serve as medical documentation that shows you are fit to perform the requirements of your job as a truck driver. There are different requirements for various registries such as the FMCSA, so it is recommended that you contact them directly to see if the FCE would meet their requirements. We would be happy to work with you to determine what is needed. Please contact us at with more questions.

  5. Frank Carron

    Is a Physician Referral required? Can I private pay without a referral? I need an FCE for my SSDI case. My V. A. Dr. will not cooperate.

  6. Athletico

    Hi Frank, a physician script is not required for an evaluation in the state of Illinois. We can verify the group health insurance to see if it covers this type of evaluation. If it does not, we do offer a private pay option. Please reach out to with any questions.

  7. Kevin John

    Recovering from a ankle transplant, will or should there be automatic restrictions regardless of the fce? I drove a semi as a delivery driver, offloading via a handtruck and going up and down ramps, up to 40,000 lbs a day and up to 15 miles on foot a shift. My concern is that I know my allograft ankle transplant won’t last as long if I’m doing heavy duty labor.

    What do I do in a case like this or could I expect to happen? Seems like a major nuance if I can do something, but it will degrade transplant quicker.

  8. Athletico

    Thanks for reaching out Kevin. In order to know what the restrictions would need to be, an FCE would need to be completed to better understand deficits and abilities. For more questions, please reach out to your local Athletico clinic or email

  9. Maka

    Hi this is Meka I injured myself on the job a year ago 2018 I’m just now getting physical therapist in 2019 in November now they wants to send me to do a fce I have never had no pain medicine over a whole year or no type of medicine no doctors with mess with me because I was up under a work injury even my own family doctor I have been approved for workman’s comp I have not received no type of compensation was that about

  10. Clifford Sweet

    I am already receiving SSDI. Declared disabled by the state of Texas 5 years ago. I am a status post C5-C6 anterior and posterior cervical fusion with titanium instrumentation. There is a misplaced screw to the left vertebral artery. The insurance company is asking me to do a FCE. I was a licensed Plumber all of my working life which required the use of my neck 90% of the time. I also have a torn rt rotator cuff that has not been repaired and I had a hernia repair 8 months ago. Not sure why the insurance company wants me to take such risk.

  11. Jeanette F

    October last year I fell on the job. I sprained my ankle, the doctor said it was a contusion to my back. MRI shows lumbar 4 and 5 disc displacement but will eventually work its way back into place along with degenerative vertebrae and a sprained knee. Nine months later, I can walk but not run, I can barely squat…if I do squat it feels like a nerve is pulling between my knee and thigh , crippling.. Not to mention the excruciating arthritis that is crippling me to the point my back, under neath my breast, arms, and fingers start burning and cramp to the point I can not move. I cry for help its depressing and I can no longer function the way I use to. If I do too many activities such as climb stairs(my sleeping quarters is up there)wash dishes(if I stand to long my back aches if I sit too long I can barely stand back up. , when I sleep my knee feels like its burning when I walk for at least 25 to 30 minutes I tire so easily. Sometimes I fall my leg just give way. My right side was the side I depended on. I use to run my dogs, clean my yard, cut my grass in no time. Now it take me days to completer a simple task because I tire so easily. I take medication on a regular basis.

  12. Nicole

    Hi i am nicole i have osteoarthritis in my lower back and was refered by my employer for functional capacity evaluation and it was the worse experience and painfull i couldn’t take it so i burst into tears and started crying because the pain was so bad but the occupational therepist insisted i stan and i cant sit but my legs were very lame at the time and at the time my heart rate jumped so i dont really know what happens after this evaluation

  13. Athletico

    Nicole – I am sorry to hear about your experience. I hope you the best with your recovery. After the FCE, a report will be completed by the therapist and sent to the referring party (i.e. employer, MD, insurance, etc.). You as a patient can attempt to request a copy from the provider’s medical records office.

  14. Joc

    I had a head injury where I now have headaches as a result but I’m being sent for a FCE. Is there any way to test for something like this?

  15. Abdulhalim

    Hello, my name is Abdulhalim, 44 years old. I had a work injury in the back in the ninth month of last year, and after three months the pain increased and the pain increased and became my left leg and foot so that I could not walk and walk on it and I could not sleep comfortably, the company sent me to A specialist doctor, and after they took x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), showed me the beginnings of the disc, after which I took an injection in my back, and after a period of treatment, they intensified the physical therapy movements for two hours a day and these movements were intended to prepare me to return to work, but as I practiced these movements, the pain increased. Which made my specialist doctor stop the physical therapy and decided to take an ejection again, after which my condition improved significantly, which made the doctor return to work and work six hours a day for three days a week, but the nature of my work made me feel pain again and now The doctor told me we will submit you to an FCE session, and I have no idea about it, and I asked the doctor to return to work, but not to my previous work or perhaps to a job that suits my situation.
    IN, USA

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