First word about the injury came in a statement from press secretary Robert Gibbs nearly three hours after the incident saying that Obama was inadvertently struck by someone’s elbow. The individual was not identified.
Obama received the stitches under local anesthesia in the doctor’s office on the ground floor White House after he returned home.
The president had gone to nearby Fort McNair to indulge in one of his favorite athletic pursuits, a game of basketball. It was a five-on-five contest involving family and friends and including Reggie Love, Obama’s personal assistant who played at Duke University.
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.
Obama’s motorcade obeyed all traffic stops, the custom for nonofficial trips, during the return to the White House.
In February, Obama, 49, was deemed to be in excellent health and fit for duty after his first medical checkup as president. Doctors reported then that Obama had yet to kick a smoking habit, takes anti-inflammatory medication to relieve chronic tendinitis in his left knee and should make dietary changes to reduce his cholesterol levels.
Obama was told to return for another physical exam in August 2011, after he turns 50. In addition to regular pickup basketball games, Obama is also an avid golfer.
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. The session originally was announced for Nov. 18, but was delayed after Republicans, who will control the House and increase their numbers in the Senate come January, said they couldn’t accommodate the president.
Medical help is always nearby for U.S. presidents. A doctor or nurse is stationed at the White House around the clock and accompanies the president in his motorcade and aboard Air Force One.
Recent presidents have had a number of medical scares.
George W. Bush choked on a pretzel and briefly lost consciousness, falling and hurting his head. Bill Clinton had surgery and used crutches for months for a torn tendon in his knee when he stumbled on steps at the Florida home of golf pro Greg Norman.
The elder Bush, George H.W. Bush, was hospitalized for an erratic heartbeat while jogging at Camp David, a problem later diagnosed as a thyroid ailment. The senior Bush also collapsed at a state dinner in Tokyo, which the White House blamed on an intestinal flu.
Jimmy Carter fainted briefly while jogging near Camp David and Ronald Reagan was shot in the chest in a 1981 assassination attempt.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, 69, has had five heart attacks since age 37. He had surgery this year to install a pump to help his heart work. Cheney said he has congestive heart failure.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)