Obama Needs 12 Stitches After Getting Whacked in the Lip

President Obama was injured shooting hoops.

November 26, 2010, 3:02 PM

Nov. 26, 2010— -- President Obama needed 12 stitches on his upper lip after he was inadvertently hit this morning while playing basketball with friends and family at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.

The president was playing defense when Rey Decerega, an opposing player, turned into him to take a shot and his elbow hit Obama in the mouth.

"I learned today the president is both a tough competitor and a good sport," Decerega, who works for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, said in a written statement. "I enjoyed playing basketball with him this morning. I'm sure he'll be back out on the court again soon."

The president was given a local anesthetic for the procedure.

The White House Medical Unit used a smaller filament that requires more stitches but makes them tighter, resulting in a smaller scar, the administration said.

While leaving Fort McNair, cameras captured the president holding a gauzelike material to his lip.

Jonathan Smith, a sports fitness instructor at Fort McNair, told ABC News he noticed a few "trickles of blood" on the president's lip as he and his entourage were leaving.

They had been playing for about 90 minutes when the incident occurred, Smith said.

The injury occurred in the last of the five games Obama was playing with his friends, which included his nephew, Avery Robinson, personal aide Reggie Love and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Neither the first lady nor the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, were there.

Later, at the Christmas tree arrival ceremony, Obama could be seen looking through a window at the front of the White House, holding what looked like an icepack to his lip.

Obama's love of basketball is well documented and he's a regular on the court with his friends. The president, who played basketball for his high school team in Hawaii, has on a few occasions stepped away from the White House to attend college and professional games.

As a presidential candidate, Obama told HBO's Bryant Gumbel that people can take away a lot about a person based on their game.

"I do think you can tell something about people from how they play basketball,'" said Obama. "For example, people who keep on shooting even though they have no jump shot,'' he said with a laugh. "You can tell that there is a certain self-delusional aspect to their game that says something about who they are.''

For his birthday this year, the president invited a remarkable group of athletes to play a pickup game with him, including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Derek Fisher, Chris Paul, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill, Derrick Rose and Bill Russell. Kobe Bryant was also on hand but did not play.

When it comes to shooting hoops, the president is no soft player. In a Nov. 2008 CNN interview, Alexi Giannoulias, who ran for Obama's Senate seat and lost, said the president is a tough player.

"It's just a five on five game. Again, people are, no one wanted to hurt Barack Obama. No one wanted to give him a black eye. But we still played very competitive," Giannoulias said. "He plays very, very hard. He's a smiley guy. But out there, he's just competitive. He's plays really tough. And he's a phenomenal basketball player."

"No one wants to elbow anybody. The beauty of us getting a chance to play and just hang out as friends. We don't look at him like he's the president of the United States. He's one of the guys," he added.

The injury today came on the heels of a relatively low-key Thanksgiving for the Obamas.

On Thursday morning, Obama called 10 members of the U.S. armed services -- two members each from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy -- to thank them for their service and sacrifice, and to wish them and their families a Happy Thanksgiving. The 10 service members are all deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama's Thanksgiving message to Americans this year was focused on the economy, and the president called for bipartisan compromise moving forward.

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