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Arnold School of Public Health


Concussion expert R. Davis Moore joins Department of Exercise Science

September 2, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Davis Moore has joined the Arnold School as an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science (EXSC). Adding to the array of expertise that EXSC has built over the years, Moore has traveled the continent to become an expert in concussive injuries. Fresh off his postdoctoral fellowship in Montreal, Moore has returned to the Southeast to make his home at the University of South Carolina.

Originally from Lookout Mountain, Ga., Moore had his first brush with concussions when he experienced his own during a wrestling match in middle school. But it was his second concussion, while practicing Judo as a college student at the University of Georgia, that really made an impact. “It took a really long time to recover, and the entire experience was very poorly managed,” Moore says. “It had a profound effect on me, and I thought that maybe I could improve the recovery process for others.”

As a result, the then-psychology major focused his senior project on traumatic brain injury and engaged in research in his department’s Vision and Psychophysics Laboratory. Moore then spent a year as a post-bachelor research assistant in UGA’s Cognition and Skill Acquisition Laboratory before enrolling in the department of Kinesiology’s Master of Science in Exercise Science program, concentrating in sport and exercise psychology. That’s when his interests shifted to encompass not only concussions and other brain injuries, but the effects of exercise on brain and behavioral health.

Unfortunately, we are just beginning to understand the predisposing factors and management pitfalls that result in persisting symptoms (for concussions), and they vary according to the patient’s previous level of physical activity, severity of the concussion, mental activity, psychological profile, etc.

-Davis Moore, Assistant Professor of EXSC

Immediately following the completion of his master’s degree, Moore joined the kinesiology doctoral program at the University of Illinois. With the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory as his second home, he began to refine his research perspective and skill set to measure the relationship between physical activity and bio-behavioral health under the guidance of the lab’s director, Charles Hillman. In addition to serving as a graduate research assistant during his Ph.D. program, Moore developed his teaching and mentorship skills at Illinois through teaching assistantships, serving as an instructor, and mentoring undergraduate students.

After graduation, Moore accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Montreal to continue his research at the NeuroDEV Lab and the Center for Neuropsychology and Cognition Research. “Montreal is the epicenter of concussion research,” says Moore, who studied under Dave Ellemberg. “Their program takes a multidisciplinary view towards understanding concussion outcomes and how to develop active rehabilitation protocols for those with persisting deficits, so for me, it was the perfect fit.” He also continued prioritizing mentorship activities by overseeing five graduate students and nine undergraduate students during his two-year appointment.

The result of Moore’s cross-continental travels to receive the very best training in psychophysiological techniques and concussion assessment, evaluation and rehabilitation, is his own unique perspective and expertise on this emerging public health issue. He looks at every stage of concussion, from the initial diagnosis to the emergency treatment, all the way through rehabilitation—publishing two dozen peer-reviewed papers and 70 abstracts so far with more than 10 others in preparation or under review. Moore’s overarching goal within the field is to delineate the biological, psychological and social determinants of concussion outcomes. “This will not only facilitate the scientific understanding of concussive injuries, but also facilitate clinical practices by advancing the assessment, management and rehabilitation techniques."

Everything really came together for me at Carolina. It’s a research-intensive atmosphere with high-caliber faculty who have high standards and productivity, but everyone is down to earth.

-Davis Moore, Assistant Professor of EXSC

Although great strides have been made there are no effective, evidence-based protocols for identifying and providing care to those who experience concussions, particularly for those experience persisting symptoms and psychological deficits,” he explains. “For example, physical activity is recommended as part of the rehabilitation for athletes, but most people exercise too soon or too intensely after injury, which can worsen the underlying brain injury and its associated psychological perturbations—whereas we’ve had a lot of success through our research and clinical practice in easing athletes back into exercise in a systematic way, based on known physiological parameters and psychological phenomenon. I find this aspect of my research program to be particularly exciting, because of the success we’ve had with those who suffering from persisting symptoms.”

“Unfortunately, we are just beginning to understand the predisposing factors and management pitfalls that result in persisting symptoms, and they vary according to the patient’s previous level of physical activity, severity of the concussion, mental activity, psychological profile, etc.,” adds Moore. He aims to help elucidate these factors and improve injury outcomes.

He also intends to make his assessment and rehabilitation protocols widely accessible, so that researchers, clinicians, and patients alike can be informed and empowered throughout the recovery process. Moore is documenting successful assessment and rehabilitation protocols through his research, which he is expanding to include other populations (e.g., non-athletes, military personnel, car accident survivors). He is particularly interested in filling the knowledge gaps for children ages 6-16 to better understand outcomes and concussion effects on cognition development, such as math skills, impulse control, etc.

I’m really looking forward to working with others in athletic training, sports medicine, neuroscience, psychology and others to coordinate comprehensive initiatives that focus on both research and clinical care.

-Davis Moore, Assistant Professor of EXSC

“There are currently only a handful of studies on children younger than high school age, and this group often experiences outcomes that are worse than older age groups,” says Moore. “If we can learn more about how this group is affected then we can better understand when and how to intervene, to steer them toward better outcomes.” Through collaborative effort and his own research, Moore hopes to improve injury assessments, care and outreach for athletes as well as underserved populations, such as police and fire fighter personnel as well as children.

He sees a lot of opportunity and value to be added to the field by advancing the knowledge and care of individuals who get injured, but don’t have the benefit of a team of sports medicine professionals coordinating their recovery. That’s where the University of South Carolina comes in.

“Everything really came together for me at Carolina,” says Moore of choosing UofSC over competing options. “It’s a research-intensive atmosphere with high-caliber faculty who have high standards and productivity, but everyone is down to earth.”

Moore, who values working with students, also appreciated that the Arnold School is highly rated as a school of public health with a mentorship-rich environment and that the exercise science department has the best Ph.D. program in the country. It didn’t hurt that position brought him back to the Southeast and closer to home.

Perhaps one of Carolina’s most compelling selling points for Moore, however, was the opportunity to help develop a comprehensive concussion program. In parallel to establishing his Concussion & Health Neuroscience Laboratory, Moore plans to immediately begin collaborating with researchers and clinicians from across his new department, School, University, and beyond—leveraging these complementary perspectives into a comprehensive concussion program that is both diverse and unified.

“I’m really looking forward to working with others in athletic training, sports medicine, neuroscience, psychology and others to coordinate comprehensive initiatives that focus on both research and clinical care,” he says. “Together, we can advance scientific understanding and clinical management of concussions occurring in sport and non-sport settings, and advance education care and policy advancement.”