What Is a Functional Abilities Evaluation?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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A functional abilities evaluation is a series of physical tests that are used to evaluate the work ability of a previously injured or disabled individual. It is typically an intensive process that takes place over the course of a day. The participant is put through a standardized group of exercises that each measure a specific aspect of physical ability. This process is known by several other terms, including functional capacity evaluation, physical capacity evaluation, and work capacity evaluation.

Some of the skills examined in a functional abilities evaluation include strength, stamina, and range of motion. Often flexibility and speed are also tested as well. The tests are usually geared to the particular condition of the individual, taking into account the extent of the injury, the level of pain the patient experiences, and what limitations the impairment has imposed. An evaluation may also focus on the requirements of a particular job and incorporate specific tasks such as the ability to lift and carry a certain amount of weight.

In addition to determining the work ability of individuals, the tests in a functional abilities evaluation can be used as a baseline for what is considered an appropriate level of physical ability for a particular job. These criteria can be useful to industries that regularly see the recurrence of certain types of injuries. Upon completion of the evaluation, the tester will determine a specific level of ability for the individual.


The effectiveness of the ability baseline depends upon the skill level of professional administering the functional abilities evaluation. Part of a successful evaluation involves the proper analysis of the individual’s performance in each area. It is also important that the tester picks the mix of exercises that best evaluates an individual for the position in question. A tester may also consider the specific condition of the patient when determining how best to conduct the evaluation.

There are several reasons for conducting a functional abilities evaluation. It can be used to determine eligibility for redeployment to military service or a particular position. The test may also play a role in deciding whether an individual is eligible for disability payments. An assessment can be used to determine what sort of employment is appropriate for an individual recovering from an injury as well. A successful evaluation will typically provide the information necessary for the individual to advance from injury and disability to rehabilitation.


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