WASHINGTON — Presidential politics can be rough-and-tumble, but it was a friendly basketball game on Friday that gave President Obama a cut on his upper lip requiring 12 stitches.
Playing in a post-Thanksgiving holiday pickup game with visiting family members and administration aides, Obama was on defense when a player turned into him to shoot and elbowed him in the mouth, according to a White House account.
The player was Reynaldo Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the White House said.
"I learned today the president is both a tough competitor and a good sport," Decerega said in a prepared statement. "I enjoyed playing basketball with him this morning. I'm sure he'll be back out on the court again soon."
Elbow and lip collided in the last of five short games played at Fort McNair, a 10 minute drive from the White House.
Pictures showed Obama standing near his motorcade in a gray T-shirt, holding a piece of gauze to his mouth. The president was driven back to the White House and treated there by the medical unit. Obama was given a local anesthetic. The medical staff used a procedure that required more stitches than usual in hopes of minimizing the scar.
Although he has played more golf than hoops since taking office, Obama is an avid recreational basketball player whose pickup games are known to be tough.
Some who have competed against Obama said the players jockey for rebounds and challenge him when he drives the lane. Obama bruised a rib on the day of the Indiana and North Carolina primaries in May 2008 when Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias knocked him to the floor.
On the day Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in Denver, he sat out a pickup game as a precaution.
In a comment that proved prophetic, an Obama friend, Alan S. King, said at the time: "There was a particular concern about not wanting him to turn up with a busted lip."