Obama gets 12 stitches to mouth after getting elbowed playing basketball

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President Barack Obama needed 12 stitches in his upper lip after taking an errant elbow during a pickup basketball game Friday morning with family and friends visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday, the White House said.


First word of the injury came in a statement from press secretary Robert Gibbs nearly three hours after the incident.


The White House did not initially name the person who caused the injury, but identified him later Friday as Rey Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.


Obama received the stitches under local anesthesia in the doctor's office on the ground floor of the White House after returning home. Doctors used a smaller filament than typically used, which increases the number of stitches but makes a tighter stitch and leaves a smaller scar.


The president had gone to nearby Fort McNair to indulge in a game of basketball, one of his favorite athletic pursuits. It was a five-on-five contest involving family and friends. Among the players were Obama's nephew, Avery Robinson, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Reggie Love, Obama's personal assistant, who played at Duke University.


The White House said the injury happened during their fifth and final game when Decerega turned to take a shot and hit Obama, who was playing defense, in the mouth with his elbow.


Obama emerged from the building after about 90 minutes of play, wearing a short-sleeve T-shirt and gym pants, and was seen dabbing at his mouth with what appeared to be a wad of gauze. A few hours later, reporters who had gathered on the White House driveway for the arrival of the Christmas tree saw the president in an upstairs window, pressing an ice pack against his mouth before he stood and walked away.


"After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player's elbow in the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, the president received 12 stitches today administered by the White House Medical Unit," Gibbs said.


Decerega issued a statement through the White House late Friday. He did not immediately respond to an e-mail request from The Associated Press for independent comment.
"I learned today the president is both a tough competitor and a good sport," the statement said. "I enjoyed playing basketball with him this morning. I'm sure he'll be back out on the court again soon."

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