Obama gets 12 stitches after elbow to mouth during basketball game

WASHINGTON - (AP) - President Barack Obama needed 12 stitches inhis upper lip after taking an errant elbow during a pickupbasketball game Friday morning with family and friends visiting forthe Thanksgiving holiday, the White House said. First word of the injury came in a statement from presssecretary Robert Gibbs nearly three hours after the incident. The White House did not initially name the person who caused theinjury, but identified him later Friday as Rey Decerega, directorof programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Obama received the stitches under local anesthesia in thedoctor's office on the ground floor of the White House afterreturning home. Doctors used a smaller filament than typicallyused, which increases the number of stitches but makes a tighterstitch and leaves a smaller scar. The president had gone to nearby Fort McNair to indulge in agame of basketball, one of his favorite athletic pursuits. It was afive-on-five contest involving family and friends. Among theplayers were Obama's nephew, Avery Robinson, Education SecretaryArne Duncan and Reggie Love, Obama's personal assistant, who playedat Duke University. The White House said the injury happened during their fifth andfinal game when Decerega turned to take a shot and hit Obama, whowas 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 dabbingat his mouth with what appeared to be a wad of gauze. A few hourslater, reporters who had gathered on the White House driveway forthe arrival of the Christmas tree saw the president in an upstairswindow, pressing an ice pack against his mouth before he stood andwalked away. "After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player's elbowin the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, thepresident received 12 stitches today administered by the WhiteHouse 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 TheAssociated Press for independent comment. "I learned today the president is both a tough competitor and agood sport," the statement said. "I enjoyed playing basketballwith him this morning. I'm sure he'll be back out on the courtagain soon." Obama's motorcade obeyed all traffic stops, the custom fornonofficial trips, during the return to the White House.

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