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Orthopaedic surgeon details when 49ers' Brock Purdy can return to football

AtoZ Sports logo AtoZ Sports 3/29/2023 Evan Winter
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The 49ers' rookie sensation is certainly facing an uphill climb over the next several months.

There are big questions surrounding the San Francisco 49ers quarterback room, but arguably none are bigger than Brock Purdy's recovery timeline.

The rookie sensation had successful UCL surgery on his elbow a few weeks ago and per the team's website, Purdy is scheduled to begin a throwing program three months later. 

That doesn't mean Purdy is going to get thrown back into action, by any means, as The Bone and Joint Institute's Dr. Scott Arthur recently told A to Z Sports:

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"The throwing program, basically, you're gonna start off at 10 yards or so, and then start progressing distance and velocity and then picking up the intensity of your throwing," said Arthur, who is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and treatment of the knee, shoulder and elbow. "It's really going to be a two or three month program to do that. 

"... So I don't think he would be ready by training camp. I think, he'll be in kind of in the middle stages of his throwing program or you know, early to middle stage of his throwing program. I would not expect him to be participating in any high degree where he's making any kind of significant throws from a practice standpoint in July."

Purdy and the 49ers actually got pretty lucky. Purdy avoided Tommy John surgery, which would've essentially kept him out for the entire 2023 season. Instead of putting in a graft, doctors repaired the torn ligament by installing an internal brace. Per Arthur, the brace is what is going to allow Purdy's rapid return. TJ surgery is usually a year-long recovery, whereas, UCL surgery is 6-8 months.

The recovery timeline is typically a consistent one, too. Sure, there may be a minor setback here and there, but overall, things should go pretty smoothly.

"It's fairly consistent that the timeline's where you throw it three months and then build up more to competitive-type - you know, ready to practice and play," said Arthur. "Ideally, it's around the six month mark is that you're typically shooting for. It's pretty consistent but, in that, it's not uncommon that it's not a linear progression; where every day is great and you just keep moving forward. 

"A lot of times you'll have a little bit of a minor setback just in that you're having some pain or irritability and have to take a little short break and regroup a little bit."

But don't expect to see Purdy on the football field at all during the preseason. There is an obvious risk of re-injuring the elbow and the 49ers are very likely to take every precaution in order to make sure that doesn't happen.

"I would not expect they're going to allow him to have any contact for that full six month period," said Arthur. "That'll put him ready to go right around Week 1, so I would be shocked if they allow him to have any contact in a preseason game or anything like that leading up to it. So I think you're probably going to be pretty protective from that standpoint.

"I think it would be surprising if he played in the preseason game honestly, just from the timeframes."

Both general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have said Purdy would be the starter if he's healthy, which makes this all the more interesting. Trey Lance and Sam Darnold are going to see all of the heavy action during the offseason/training camp while Purdy recovers. Would the 49ers really name Purdy the starter Week 1 without substantial offseason action?

Who knows. But there's one thing that's certain: it's going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out.


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