WASHINGTON – 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.
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 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.
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 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.
Obama had no public events scheduled during the long holiday weekend. His stitched lip, however, could make for some interesting small talk on Tuesday, when Obama is to meet with the congressional leadership.