Fantasy Reaction: Brock Purdy Suffers Torn UCL in Right Elbow (Fantasy Football)

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The 49ers’ rookie QB, Brock Purdy, suffered a significant right elbow injury in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. Purdy was hit by Eagles defensive end, Hassan Reddick, while dropping back to pass, resulting in a completely torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport have reported that Purdy will undergo surgery to address this injury after an MRI on Monday confirmed the tear. What has not been reported to this point is the specific surgery that Purdy will require. This is an important distinction for fantasy managers as different surgical techniques require a different recovery timeline. As of Monday evening, Purdy was reportedly seeking a second opinion on his next steps.

We know UCL surgery is needed; it’s just a matter of what type of surgery Purdy and his medical team will choose. The first option is a full UCL reconstruction with a tendon graft, otherwise known as Tommy John surgery, while the second options would be a surgical repair of the injured ligament with an Internal Brace. The overall quality of the ligament itself, the location of the tear and whether the injury involves more than just the UCL is likely to determine which surgical option is selected. One thing is clear, however; throwing athletes must have an intact UCL in order to do their job.

For dynasty managers, the biggest questions are 1) How long will Purdy be out? and 2) Will this injury affect his short and long term outlook?

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To answer these questions, we need to know which surgical procedure is being utilized. A repair is typically less invasive and would offer a shorter recovery time for Purdy, roughly around 6 months. A Tommy John surgery can require a year or longer to return to form, especially in baseball pitchers. However, NFL QBs are capable of returning to 100% sooner given that the demands on the elbow are less compared to throwing 95 mph fastballs and breaking balls. In other words, throwing a football puts less stress on the elbow than throwing a baseball.

Because complete UCL injuries aren’t that common in NFL QBs, we don’t have a large sample of big time QBs having these surgeries. Former Panthers QB Jake Delhomme had Tommy John surgery in 2007. He returned in just under a year to play in all 16 games and lead the Panthers to a 12-4 record. Former 49ers QB Nick Mullens had a surgical repair with bracing in 2020, becoming the first NFL QB to undergo a UCL repair with Internal Bracing. He began throwing roughly three months out from surgery and was full cleared at about six months.

In all, we can project Purdy to be out at least six months, regardless of surgical choice. If he has a repair with bracing, he’ll have a chance to be ready for the start of the 2023 season but will be limited the entire offseason. However, if he requires a full reconstruction, he’s likely to miss most of the 2023 season, if not all of it.

The 49ers have several key decisions to make regarding their QB room in 2023. Former #3 overall pick, Trey Lance suffered an ankle fracture-dislocation in Week 2. Fortunately, Lance has a good chance to be ready for OTAs (likely at less than 100%, however) assuming his recovery goes as planned. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo, who suffered a fractured left foot in Week 13, will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Lance has a great chance to be ready for training camp and close to 100% by Week 1. However, San Francisco is unlikely to have a fully healthy QB for their offseason program.

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