Brock Purdy's UCL injury: Why repair, quicker rehab is more likely than Tommy John for 49ers QB

Shayna Rubin, The Mercury News on

Published in Football

Hopes for a 49ers Super Bowl trip were all but dashed when Brock Purdy injured his throwing elbow early on in the conference title game against Philadelphia. Though Purdy will need surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament, the 49ers are optimistic that the rookie will be able to return to action come training camp at the end of July.

Purdy is still getting second medical opinions, but the consistent feedback is that the 23-year-old will likely need a repair and not a more invasive replacement of his UCL, general manager John Lynch told reporters on Wednesday. However, a UCL replacement, also known as Tommy John surgery, can’t be completely ruled out yet.

The ultimate decision will be made mid-operation when the surgeon can closely examine the ligament.

“The positive bit of news is that it seems to be consistent that the right approach is the one that takes us to the six-month mark,” Lynch said. “Everyone will also say, you never know once you get in there. Every surgeon will tell you that on every surgery, you need to get in to see exactly.”

Dr. Nirav Pandya, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at UCSF, isn’t surprised by this diagnosis. That Purdy was gingerly throwing the football on the sideline — and later able to throw a handful of wobbly emergency passes once backup Josh Johnson left the game with a concussion — is a good indication that Purdy’s UCL is in decent shape despite the tear. Pandya said he would be shocked if surgeons determined that Purdy needed a UCL replacement.

“He has so much less mileage on his elbow, so that works in his favor,” Pandya said. “He probably has good cartilage and muscles. It’s never a good time for surgery, but the fact it’s during his first year is a good sign.”


If Purdy undergoes a repair, he will likely be able to start throwing a ball again after three months and return to action after six months.

“Most people, by a large amount of research, predictably get back after six months,” Pandya said. “The benefits of repair is that you can throw after three months. So you have May to August to get back to your mechanics and iron out details.”

Crisis averted

Surgery is never ideal, but the 49ers have to be relieved by what they’re hearing.


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