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April/May 2012 (vol. 08/6)

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Research Plus

Functional capacity testing

This systematic review finds good and moderate evidence that certain performance tests, particularly floor-to-waist lifting, are predictive of future work participation in people with musculoskeletal disorders, irrespective of them having a back, lower- or upper-limb condition. Work participation measures included return to work (RTW), sustained RTW, being employed or (as a surrogate) closure of a disability claim. Thirteen papers evaluated proprietary functional capacity tests and five looked at step, trunk-strength or lift tests. Overall, better test performance predicts greater chance of work participation, though tests are generally more powerful at predicting non-work participation (eg a failure to RTW) than work participation (ie RTW). Three moderate quality studies found tests to be predictive of RTW; however, three good quality papers found that tests were not predictive of sustained RTW (one moderate quality study showed that tests were weakly predictive of this).

International Archives of Occupational & Environmental Health 2012; 85: 109–123.

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Occupational Health at Work April/May 2012 (vol. 08/6) pp48