Introducing a Better and More Complete Method of Return-to-Work Testing for Injured Employees

When an injured employee is out on disability or workers’ comp leave, you want him back on the job as quickly as possible. But bring him back too soon and he could re-injure himself—causing the expensive, frustrating cycle to start over again.

Many companies rely on Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) testing to determine readiness to return to work. The problem is, despite their widespread acceptance, FCEs can’t provide the details of muscle function. These tests often miss muscle weaknesses that can leave an employee vulnerable physically—and his employer vulnerable financially.

At IPCS, we provide a better way to test for readiness to return to work—especially in the case of shoulder and knee injuries, which account for some 40 to 45 percent of all disability/workers’ comp dollars spent.

Physical Capability Evaluations Identify Problems FCEs Often Miss.

PCE™ testing uses isokinetic technology to identify an injured worker’s current physical capability and measure how it compares to the physical demands of his job. Below is an example of one of our readiness-to-return to work force curve evaluations on a food service delivery driver who had suffered an ACL tear and had it repaired surgically.


The traditional FCE the employee had passed failed to detect the weakened knee extensor muscles revealed in the graphic at right! After this exam, IPCS provided him with an aggressive sports medicine reconditioning program. Six weeks later, a second PCE™ test showed normal force curves, and the employee went back to work and has continued for years with no further injury.

PCE™ Evaluations Are Much More Thorough in Every Way. Here’s Why:

Objectivity is the main benefit of using PCE™ technology to determine readiness-to-return to work in regard to knee and shoulder injuries. It provides the company, physician, and injured worker with objective data and information that helps everyone make the right decision. (The fact that you can simulate the job using FCEs doesn’t necessarily mean critical major muscle groups are able to safely perform its essential function.)

  • It’s more cost effective. PCE™ tests are around half the cost of their FCE counterparts. What’s more, their accuracy prevents companies from putting workers’ comp and disability employees back to work too soon—a mistake often leading to serious re-injury.
  • PCE™ testing holds up in court. The IPCS objective test results are legally defensible.
  • The test itself is safer. PCE™ tests take far less time to administer. This means they’re far less likely than FCE tests to actually cause injuries during the testing process.
  • You get fast results—but more important, you get accurate results.When IPCS does your return-to-work assessments, you’ll have results in 24-48 hours. Yes, some FCE providers claim “instant” reporting, but that’s because they don’t rely on the (far more objective and accurate) force curves that must be analyzed by humans, not computers.
  • It leads to fewer low back claims. The IPCS case studies clearly show those workers with strong shoulders and knees are less likely to have low back claims.

Most workers who experience injuries (either initially or re-occurring) on the job do so because of two very important reasons:

  • the worker was assigned to the wrong job category initially; the individual’s physical capability was less than the physical demands of the job.
  • the injured worker was not properly rehabilitated before returning to work.

Return to Work

Matching the physical capability of the worker to the physical demands of the job will substantially reduce soft tissue injuries. If an injury does occur, it is usually a first aid type of injury.

When a worker is mismatched and suffers an injury on the job, more than likely it is because the worker could not meet the physical demands of the job. If this worker returns to this same job, the injury will keep occurring and be more severe and more costly.

A rehab program that emphasizes sports medicine and whole body reconditioning will minimize the probability of re-injury.