Doctor explains why Purdy's six-month recovery 'not guaranteed'

/ by Tristi Rodriguez
Sponsored By Toyota

Brock Purdy made a strong case to be the 49ers' starting quarterback for the 2023 NFL season, but that option became a little more complicated after the 23-year-old sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

A source told NBC Sports Bay Area this week that discussions still were in progress to determine the specifics and finalize Purdy’s surgical procedure. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday, citing sources, that Purdy will in fact undergo surgery on Feb. 22 and will be recovered by training camp. The procedure is expected to require a three-month recovery and then a three-month buildup to return to playing football.

Before Rapoport's latest news on Purdy, former NFL physician Dr. David Chao, known as ProFootballDoc on Twitter, broke down the different options on what the timeline of Purdy’s recovery process could look like.

“The key here is, if this turns out to be a reconstruction, a classic Tommy John [surgery], that’s where you hear about baseball players, minimum a year, 18 months, etc.,” Chao told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco and Jennifer Lee Chan when he joined them at Super Bowl LVII Radio Row for the latest episode of “49ers Talk.”

“Now we know the throwing motion for football is different than for baseball. If he can get away with a repair, which is what everyone is hoping for, that six-month timeline is indeed possible -- but not guaranteed.”


Purdy sustained the injury early in the 49ers’ 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. Afterward, backup QB Josh Johnson entered the game, only to be ruled out with a concussion.

The rookie re-entered the game, something Chao said “surprised” him after later learning more about the severity of Purdy's injury.

Knowing more details now, Chao offered his advice to Purdy.

“When there is a tear with the amount of torque that you have on the elbow, you can’t throw a ball,” Chao said. “It’s been reported now that he’s got a complete tear. So he’s going to need something there. [It’s] very difficult to just sit on it and let it heal and hope it’s tight enough.

“The best thing and I know he hasn’t decided on surgery yet, and no pressure on him, he should make his own decisions and get a second opinion, is probably surgery.”

If all goes well, Purdy could be cleared to return to practice around early August. 

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Coach Kyle Shanahan said last week that Purdy’s positive prognosis, along with Trey Lance’s expected return to the field for organized team activities, means the 49ers won't be looking to add a veteran quarterback to compete for a starting role. 

"I think the 49ers and [general manager] John Lynch and Co. have a quarterback conundrum," Chao said. "This is a tough situation, you guys are built to win and win now. This season got submarined by the quarterback position. Can you let that leak into next season? Right now on your roster, I get he’s going to be gone, the healthiest quarterback is Jimmy [Garoppolo]. His foot fracture is fine, no worries.

"The second healthiest is Trey Lance, ready in maybe a month. Ready to be 100 percent? No. Ready to ramp up. And obviously, he’s still relatively inexperienced. Your third-healthiest quarterback right now is Brock Purdy. He’s not ready. And if things go their way, he can be ready for the beginning of next season."

The 49ers really could use some good news health-wise as they approach next season with a vengeance. 

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