OBJECTIVE: This study aims to evaluate whether performance-based tests have additional prognostic value over self-reported work ability for sustainable return to work (RTW) in physically demanding work.
METHODS: A one-year prospective cohort study was performed among 72 construction workers on sick leave for six weeks due to musculoskeletal disorders. The Work Ability Index (WAI) question regarding "current work ability" was used. Three dynamic lifting tests were used from a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). Sustainable RTW was the number of days on sick leave until the first day of returning fully to work for a period of ≥4 weeks. Regression models were built to calculate the prognostic values.
RESULTS: Self-reported work ability alone predicted sustainable RTW (R=0.31, R (2)=0.09, P=0.009). In combination with one lifting test, the explained variance (R (2)) increased to 0.16 (P=0.001).
CONCLUSION: Combining self-reported work ability and a lifting test nearly doubled the explained variance for sustainable RTW in physically demanding work, although the strength remained modest.
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