Niners QB Brock Purdy gets UCL repaired after 40-day wait

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Friday, March 10, 2023

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Forty days after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during an NFC Championship Game loss, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy finally had surgery to repair it on Friday.

The team announced that Purdy's surgery took place Friday morning. In a statement, the Niners said Purdy "underwent successful surgery with renowned specialist Dr. Keith Meister ... Meister conducted an InternalBrace repair to Purdy's right elbow. Purdy is anticipated to start a throwing progression program in three months."

The brace is a synthetic "check-rein" implanted alongside the repair to help reinforce the ligament as it heals.

Meister performed the surgery in the Dallas area Friday after consulting with Purdy in Arizona last week. Purdy's surgery had initially been scheduled for Feb. 22, but continued swelling in the elbow forced him to delay the procedure until Friday.

Because Purdy had the elbow repaired rather than reconstructed, he will be able to resume throwing after about three months and ramp up from there. While a six-month recovery is the standard expectation for this type of operation, there is not yet a specific timeline for Purdy to get full clearance.

Before the surgery, Purdy and the Niners had expressed some concern that once Meister opened Purdy's elbow it might need a hybrid surgery between the repair and a reconstruction. A hybrid procedure would have pushed Purdy's recovery back further.

"Every person's different, so timelines are just that, they're guidelines, but we'll see," general manager John Lynch said on Feb. 28. "The reality is the majority of these are done on baseball players. This is not a baseball injury. Even the way in which it happened, Brock's going to throw on and a 250-pound man with an opposing force, it's a different injury and so, the outcomes are different and we'll see where it goes."

If Purdy ends up on a six-month timeline and is able to throw after three months, he would begin throwing again in mid-June and could be cleared in early September. Had Purdy required Tommy John reconstruction surgery, he likely would have missed the entire 2023 season.

Purdy suffered the elbow injury with 7:03 left in the first quarter of the NFC championship loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Eagles pass-rusher Haason Reddick hit Purdy as he attempted to throw a deep pass for receiver Brandon Aiyuk, jarring the ball loose. Purdy went to the sideline and tried a couple of throws before recognizing that something was wrong. He later reentered the game when backup Josh Johnson suffered a concussion but was unable to throw the ball more than about 5 to 10 yards.

With Purdy certain to miss the offseason program, the Niners' only quarterback under contract expected to participate is Trey Lance. As he recovers from a broken right ankle, Lance has resumed throwing, and though he's not fully cleared yet, he has said on multiple occasions he believes he'll be ready to take part in organized team activities and minicamp.

Still, the Niners will need to add to the quarterback room in either free agency, the draft or both. With at least a little more certainty on Purdy's recovery, the 49ers are expected to explore veteran quarterbacks whose contracts won't break the bank when the early negotiating window opens Monday.

"We may have to look into the quarterback market in addition to Brock and Trey to insulate ourselves from whatever may happen," Lynch said.