If one area 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy can improve from his rookie season is his arm strength, his recent surgery might not be such a setback, after all.
“I actually think it might be a little bit of a blessing in disguise,” UCSF orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nirav Pandya said on the latest "49ers Talk" podcast.
Purdy underwent surgery on Friday, during which Texas Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister conducted an internal brace repair to Purdy’s right elbow. Purdy is expected to begin throwing as part of his physical therapy after three months.
Purdy did not undergo the full elbow reconstruction, which is common among baseball pitchers, known as Tommy John surgery. Pitchers often come back throwing with more velocity than before the surgery.
“A lot of people see pitchers get Tommy John and they come back even better and they think it’s the surgery,” Dr. Pandya said. “Actually, it forces you to really rehab and work on mechanics that you may never have worked on in the past, and kind of resetting things.”
Therefore, Dr. Pandya said he believes in approximately six months when Purdy receives full medical clearance to resume playing football, his arm strength might be noticeably improved.
“I think it allows him the opportunity to work on strength, work on the ability to potentially change his mechanics and actually come back stronger,” Dr. Pandya said.
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“So it’s less about the actual surgery itself but the fact that you got six months of forced rehab to work on strengthening and protecting his arm, and that allows him the opportunity to get back (stronger)."
Dr. Pandya warned there are few instances in which quarterbacks have undergone this surgery. One of the known patients was former 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, who sustained a similar injury late in the 2020 NFL season and appeared in two games the following season with the Cleveland Browns.
The question becomes how Purdy’s elbow will hold up to the rigors of playing football, Dr. Pandya said.
“When pitchers get that surgery, nobody is coming up at them and hitting that arm,” Dr. Pandya said. “That’s what we really don’t know: How will this hold up when he gets hit again in the backfield?
“That would be the only concern. I think he’ll be able to get out there and play, but it’s the physical part of the game that could hold him back Week 1, Week 2, Week 3.”