Many people think cheerleading is all about pom-poms, pep and pretty uniforms.
But cheerleading has become the most dangerous and deadly sport for young women, especially right here in Southern California.
In the last decade, cheerleading injuries resulting in emergency room visits have increased almost six-fold.
And not just for sprains and strains. For many of these young ladies, a stunt mean to shock and awe fans, has left little girls cheering for their lives.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, cheering is *the* most dangerous female sport.
Nearly 30,000 cheerleaders are treated in emergency rooms each year. Their average age is just 14-and-a-half years old.
Some are sent home to heal, but a few never do.
Elizabeth Knicks is one of them.
Gerry and Laddie Knicks moved from Nigeria to Redondo Beach in search of the American dream.
Raising three spirited children in a tight-knit community -- they thought they found it.
Until the Knicks' nightmare began back in 2007, at a local cheerleading practice.
Lizzie, just 12 at the time, toppled to the ground during a pyramid-style cheerleading stunt landing on her head.
At the hospital, she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, or bleeding of the brain.
She was initially released after five days of observation.
But the morning after she got home, her parents couldn't wake her up.
When taken back to the ER, Lizzie was determined to have suffered massive brain damage, retardation and paralysis.
The Knicks' attorney, Bill Karnes, says the little Lizzie who loved to dance and cheer will probably never be the same.
"We wish the best for her future, but unfortunately there are some realities in medicine, and it does not appear she will ever be the same," Karnes said.
"Someone has to be with her 24/7."
Now, instead of pom-poms clutched in little Lizzie's hands, she holds a rag to stop the drooling -- a side effect from her entire right side being paralyzed.
She suffers from memory loss. She can't walk, eat on her own, or even go to the bathroom alone.
The Knicks family is speaking exclusively to KTLA in hopes of enlightening and informing parents about the serious, even deadly, dangers of cheerleading in California.
In our state, cheerleading is not considered an official sport -- meaning it doesn't require the same safety equipment, limits on practice time, or training for coaches that are enforced in other sports.
Though cheer enthusiasts like David Kirschner, the President of the Spirit Consultants say accidents can be avoided if coaches take appropriate precautions.
The Knicks family did settle a $5.5 million medical malpractice lawsuit.
The payment is one of the largest in county history, due largely to the high cost of Lizzie's ongoing care, which she'll need for the rest of her life.
Lizzie's smile, fighting spirit and love of life will forever be her family's true victory cry.
And though Elizabeth Knicks may never cheer again, everyone is cheering for her.
KTLA Special Report: A Cheerleader's Story
Serious cheerleading injuries on the rise
Watch Lu Parker's report
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