SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 11: Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on as he runs during an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Santa Clara, California.
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Brock Purdy Will Be Ready Week 1 Thanks to a New Elbow Surgery

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was uncertain when he'd return to play, but a new surgery has him ready for Week 1.

Brock Purdy has gone from Mr. Irrelevant to one of the most relevant players in the NFL. His health might hold the fate of the talented San Francisco 49ers in his hand. The key to that happening started in Arlington, Texas, just five miles from the home of the Cowboys.

As anyone could see, Brock Purdy injured his arm in the NFC Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was in that game because of previous injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, carrying the team to places third string quarterbacks normally don't, all while getting heaps of praise from those inside and outside the 49ers. The elbow injury threatened all of that.

A few years back, the type of surgery Purdy had would have been a pipe dream. He would have needed Tommy John surgery, something very rarely done on football players, costing him at least nine months. Instead, the development of a technique called InternalBrace repair allows him to come back significantly quicker and potentially at a higher level by Week 1.

Purdy was sent to see Dr. Keith Meister, the team doctor for the Texas Rangers and one of the top elbow surgeons in the country. Meister's experience with InternalBrace repair allowed him to judge whether Purdy was a candidate - spoiler alert, he was - and then complete the surgery quickly. By mid-summer, Purdy was throwing a football downfield and was cleared to throw before training camp. All reports are that Purdy is functionally back to normal.

Anatomically, he's also pretty much normal, aside from the proprietary piece of textile that overlays his repaired ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow. That fiber - called FiberTape by developer Arthrex - acts like suspenders over the ligament, keeping too much force from being passed to it. From the time the anchors set a few weeks after surgery, the repaired ligament is almost bulletproof. There have been failures, but the percentage is vanishingly small.

How Healthy is Brock Purdy?

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JULY 27: Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers works out during training camp at SAP Performance Facility on July 27, 2023 in Santa Clara, California.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

That Purdy came back quickly is relative. While it is no doubt faster than Tommy John surgery, there's a number of athletes who have had similar procedures and come back much faster. Purdy had a goal of Week 1, but there have been very quick returns from severe injuries. With pro athletes, teams tend to be a lot more conservative with their valuable assets.

A source told me that Purdy has had almost no issue with the elbow from Day One. He was quickly through rehab, into throwing progressions, all without any major soreness or issues. Setbacks are common, but Purdy has gone into camp and needed no additional maintenance or recovery. The Niners are being a bit conservative with him still in terms of throws and contact, but that's the case with almost all expected starters at this stage of the season.

InternalBrace isn't quite a miracle, but for Brock Purdy and the 49ers, it's certainly a big help. It's not just elbows either, with InternalBrace procedures used for thumbs, ankles, and knees. There's no known NFL player who's had an InternalBrace ACL, but it's possible that one of the surgeons using the technique have done it without letting anyone know. Getting someone back from an ACL surgery in under six months is not only possible, it's being done.

What's next for Purdy? For fans, you can more or less forget about the surgery. He's healed. He's ready. It's up to him and Kyle Shanahan at this point. If he has a sophomore slump, don't put that on the elbow. What's next for the procedure? Elbow injuries are rare in the NFL, but knees and ankles aren't and I fully expect InternalBrace to become regularly used, if not the standard, inside the decade.

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