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A federal judge has ruled that Brigham Young University is not responsible for the back injuries that cost former football star Bud Orr a professional career.

BYU does not have a clear legal duty to protect its football team from injury, U.S. District Judge David Sam ruled. Sam ruled in favor of BYU on most of Orr's claims against the school.However, Sam did not rule on whether the medical care BYU gave Orr was adequate. That issue will be decided at trial.

Sam's ruling vindicates BYU, the school said in a press release. "The court said that football players, like other adults, must take responsibility for their own safety, and that a university does not have a parent-like responsibility to protect students from unwise decisions or actions," the press release said.

Orr may appeal part of Sam's decision to the Utah Supreme Court. In his ruling, Sam said that Utah law was not clear on whether BYU had a duty to Orr.

A federal judge elsewhere in the country has ruled that a school does have the legal duty to protect sports players. Orr may use that ruling and the ambiguity of Utah's law as a reason for appealing Sam's ruling to the Utah Supreme Court.

"That's an option we're looking at," said Rick Van Wagoner, attorney for Orr.

Orr must obtain permission from Sam or the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals before sending the case to the Utah court.

"In attempting to extend the legal duties owed to him by BYU, Orr, in essence, urges that BYU, having recruited him to play football, assumed the responsibility for his safety and deprived him of the normal opportunity for self protection," Sam wrote.

"However, nothing in the facts supports Orr's contentions that, by playing football for BYU, he became in essence a ward of the university without any vestige of free will or independence."

Orr was 22 years old, married with a child, the judge noted. He could take care of himself.

In his suit, Orr said that BYU's negligence cost him a professional football career and asked to be paid for that loss.

Sam disagreed. Orr's own expert testified that Orr had discogenic back disease, a degeneration of back discs brought on by repeated trauma, Sam noted.

"Only by quitting football could Orr have prevented the back injury which prevented him from attempting a professional career," the judge ruled.

"In short, regardless of what BYU did or did not do, a jury could not reasonably conclude that Orr could have had a professional football career, even if had the necessary skills," the judge ruled.

Orr and his lawyers failed to prove the BYU football program was administered without regard for players' safety as Orr claimed, Sam ruled.