During a pickup basketball game on Friday, President Obama was hit with an elbow to the face by opposing player Ray Deceraga, who works for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, suffering a split lip that required twelve stiches to repair. This was the first visible injury Obama has suffered on the job, but it's hardly a novelty in presidential history. The occasional presidential injury serves as a reminder that the most powerful person in the free world is, like the rest of us, all too human. Here's a brief history of some recent presidential bumps and bruises:
1. Ford falls down the stairs
The president most famous for klutziness — thanks in large part to Chevy Chase's iconic "Saturday Night Live" impression — had in fact spent his early life as a jock, even starting as a linebacker for the University of Michigan in the 1930s. But Ford's oafish image was cemented when he tripped down the stairs of the presidential jet while visiting Austria in 1975.
2. Carter passes out
In 1979, during a 10-kilometer road race near Camp David, the 39th president overheated and fainted into the arms of Secret Service officers. Carter was deemed in "excellent form" by a doctor the next day.
3. Bush, Sr. vomits on prime minister
During a trip to Asia in 1992, George H.W. Bush committed a memorable diplomatic faux pas. At a dinner hosted by Japanese prime minister Miyazawa Kiichi, Bush fell ill, vomiting into the prime minister's lap and then fainting. The incident was videotaped and widely broadcast. Earlier in the day, the president had played a doubles tennis match against Japan's Emperor and Crown Prince, and it was speculated that his (unsuccessful) efforts to avoid defeat had played a role in his illness.
4. Clinton also falls down the stairs
The 42nd president was visiting golfer Greg Norman in Florida when he slipped and fell down a flight of stairs, tearing a tendon in his right knee. The injury required a two-hour surgery, but Clinton never lost conciousness. The president's Republican opponents couldn't resist needling him over the incident: "Somebody said they're going to do fund-raisers by allowing folks to sign his cast," remarked then-majority leader Trent Lott. Clinton walked with crutches for weeks and underwent physical therapy to recover.â€¨
5. Dubya wipes out
In 2004, George W. Bush, 16 miles into a 17 mile bike ride, "hit some loose soil while riding downhill" and suffered cuts and scratches, including a visible scratch on his face. Apparently the president's propensity for nicknames extended to treacherous landscapes: He referred to the stretch in question as "Achilles Hill." Despite his reputation for fitness, Bush was fairly accident-prone during his time in office. In 2002, he "grazed his cheek" after choking on pretzel and fainting; in 2003, he fell off a Segway scooter; and, in 2005, he crashed into a Scottish policeman while cycling.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 10 things you need to know today: November 27, 2014
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- Why the poor can't catch a break on Thanksgiving
- How to deep fry a turkey
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
Subscribe to the Week